Monday, July 6, 2020

World Building: Government by Diane Burton

Did you have a good weekend? Did you celebrate Independence Day (July 4th) or Canada Day (July 1st)? 

credit: Shutterstock
I grew up in a Detroit suburb, so Canada didn’t seem like a separate country. They spoke English, the signs were in English. (Only later, the signs were in French, too.) We easily drove across the Ambassador Bridge or through the tunnel where we were asked a few questions, like how long are you staying, where are you going? (This was all pre-9/11.) My sisters and I often went shopping for the day. In fact, I got my wedding crystal in a china shop there.

This time of year, our family often drove over to Windsor for the fireworks that took place on the Detroit River as a joint celebration. 

As a youngster, I assumed our governments were the same. Until the day Queen Elizabeth and Prince Phillip came to Windsor. Maybe that’s when I realized our governments were different. We had a president and they had a queen, along with a prime minister.

In writing science fiction stories, I need to figure out how the worlds in which my characters lived are governed. I’m sort of a pantser. I get an idea, and I start writing. I keep writing until something stops me, and I have to plot or need to do research or figure out where in the universe I am. 

When I wrote the first book in the Outer Rim series, The Pilot, I had a lot to figure out: where does the story take place; if it’s a planet, where is that planet in relation to others; are those planets connected by a government; what type, etc. How important is that? Does it affect the characters? Once I worked all that out for the first book, the others came much easier—one of the reasons I love writing series.

credit: Wikipedia

The author usually knows much more than s/he puts in the book. Think of an iceberg. The story only contains that which appears above the waterline, whereas the author knows everything.

In the Outer Rim series, the stories take place, mostly, out on the frontier of space. This is what I write at the beginning of each book in the series:

The Rim is the home of stout-hearted individuals. Pioneers eager to make their fortunes. Nonconformists who want to be left alone. Escapees from the establishment or from the law. People who reinvent themselves with new names and life histories. From primitive settlements to established colonies to cities, the Rim is the place of fantasies and dreams.

So, if these people wanted to escape the establishment, I needed to figure out what that establishment was. I decided there would be a central government that ruled a Coalition of Planets. I thought of concentric circles spreading out from the main planet where the central government was located.

As the writer, I needed to know how that government worked. My readers only needed to know what affected the characters. In The Pilot, the male protagonist’s (Trevarr) mother is the president of the Coalition of Planets. When that fact is revealed, I didn’t need to give a history lesson on the Central Government. Readers know what a president is. That was enough, at that time in the story. Later, I alluded to the fact that his father had been Chief Representative. That tells the reader the Coalition of Planets were ruled by a representative government with a president. Again, that was enough.

I knew more, of course, but I try to be scarce with details that smart readers can figure out. As the occasion warrants, I dribble out enough details so my readers aren’t lost, and not too much that their eyes glaze over.

In an ironic twist to what I just wrote, my middle grade science fiction adventure, Rescuing Mara's Father, begins in school with a lecture on different forms of government. The female protagonist, Mara, is bored out of her mind and shows it. 😊

A government is only one small part of world building. Have fun developing your world.

Saturday, July 4, 2020

Cooking Up a Conversation

By Maureen Bonatch

Social situations can be awkward. Over the years verbal conversation has become increasingly quiet as interactions are increasingly via text or other social media avenues. Restaurants, or other social spots, have people gathered, but often many of them may be physically with someone but are virtually conversing with others in cyberspace. Conversing in this manner allows for things that live conversations does not. Such as having the time to consider and edit our words (if we choose) or to validate our response.

He Said She Said

Most of us can think of a time when we:

  • Wish the other person would just listen to what we had to say
  • Couldn’t find the right words to express what we meant
  • Wish could’ve edited what we said
  • Thought of the perfect response—about an hour later
  • Had no idea what the other person was trying to say 

Some of us may wish we were like the characters in a story because they can say just the right thing—usually. Those that do deliver the best lines are often the result of a writer laboring over each word to ensure that the reader understands what the character says. Because if the conversation is vague or unclear, then the reader may become frustrated.

Recipe for Readers

As a writer it can be difficult to pull a scene from our mind and bring it alive on the page. Sometimes it may seem like the prose is perfect, but the writer has the benefit of the awareness of the other aspects that are simultaneously occurring in the story. If these aren’t detailed for the reader to immerse themselves in the story, then the character isn’t doing it in the reader’s mind.

A conversation is more than just words, it’s a:
  • Spoonful of dialogue
  • Sprinkling of description
  • Dollop of setting
  • Pinch of body language 
  • Determined amount time for other characters to respond
Otherwise it’s just talking heads with no idea who is talking, where they’re at, or what is going on as if you’d just invaded someone else’s innermost thoughts. This may be where ideas and characters are hatched, but without the other elements of the conversation others can’t understand the conversation, or envision the setting in their own mind, which can make the reader abandon the story.

Sound of Silence

Even with all these ingredients for a great conversation, it still takes creating a balance between too much dialogue, or long intervals of silence while the writer takes a trip through the setting or the inner thoughts of the character until the reader forgets what the conversation was about. 

We’ve all read, or written, stories that can’t quite achieve that balance. The premise and story might be great, but it struggles to bring it to life from the page. Writers can work to improve the balance with repeated attempts implementing the recipe for perfect prose while adding their own special ingredients to their stories. As readers, when we get a taste of an author who has mastered this we always want more.

Although sometimes we can overlook a character’s misspoken word, or a few lines of awkward prose, because it just might make us relate to them a little more and make them seem more human.

Do You Have a Recipe for Conversation?

Author Bio: Maureen Bonatch grew up in small town Pennsylvania and her love of the four seasons—hockey, biking, sweat pants and hibernation—keeps her there. While immersed in writing or reading paranormal romance and fantasy, she survives on caffeine, wine, music, and laughter. A feisty Shih Tzu keeps her in line. Find Maureen on her websiteFacebookTwitter

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Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Cover Reveal - Life For Sale - Linda Nightingale

This is a cover reveal! As of Saturday, I have the cover for my upcoming release, a sci-fi romance, Life for Sale. The image was created for The Wild Rose Press by Kim Mendoza, and I’m thrilled with it. Life for Sale is the sequel to Love For Sale, and the new cover follows through with the theme in the first book and the cover.

Love for Sale Blurb:
March Morgan still believes in true love, but her faith in finding her soul mate is slowly vanishing.  She’s been married but never in love.  So, it is a miracle to find that fantasy exists on the last page of a glossy women’s journal.  Mayfair Electronics, Ltd., in black and white, offers Love for Sale.  The London firm has engineered sentient androids indistinguishable from human.  She flies to England and meets the man she has been searching for her entire life.
Christian requires no programming to love March at first sight.  He’s handsome, cultured…absolutely perfect…and a little different from the other androids. He has an unexpected independent streak.

March signs on the dotted line, buying her dream man.  They return to Houston, but soon her past and his future threaten their Happily Ever After—indeed their lives.

Life for Sale blurb:
Mayfair Electronics has created life.
         But four of their Special Editions--sentient androids indistinguishable from human--have escaped.
Rebel Christian Aguillard and his owner, March, are on the run, but they have a bigger problem than his creator’s plan to destroy him. They’ve discovered that one of the renegades has suffered a dangerous malfunction, threatening them with more than just exposure. Trapped on a cruise ship in the middle of the Atlantic, March and Christian must stop the insane robot before someone else dies. All the evidence points to March being the killer’s next victim.
Life for Sale is a sci-fi romance, a romantic suspense, and a study of a chaotic mind, even though that consciousness was lab-created.

I don’t have a release date for Life for Sale yet, but here is a buy link for Love For Sale:  Amazon

Just as exciting in a way is that Sinners’ Opera is a semi-finalist in Paranormal/Paranormal Romance in the Raven Awards. I’d certainly appreciate your vote. Voting ends July 3rd.

Voting link:  Raven Awards
After clicking on Sinners’ Opera, scroll to the bottom of the category list. The vote button is on the left.  Thanks!  And happy July. Enjoy your holiday!

Monday, June 29, 2020

Careless Whisper by @wendizwaduk #moderndayghoststory #ghosts #romance

Careless Whisper by Wendi Zwaduk
Paranormal, Contemporary
from Totally Bound
M/F, Anal Sex

He's her kinkiest desire, if she's willing to open her heart and believe in him.

The dead don't always rest in peace. Some stick around to make the lives of the living hell on Earth. Ryan Black knows the frustration of dealing with the dead. He's a Ghost Explorer. He's conquered houses filled with apparitions, abandoned school buildings that house angry vermin, and managed to woo the female population of Snake Falls, Ohio. But he's about to face his toughest challenge—convincing skeptical Samara Jacobs she not only shares his gift, but holds his heart.

Women fall at Ryan Black's feet and Samara's determined not to be one of the many—that is until she's forced to work with him. He's certain ghosts exist and willing to prove it. As she gets to know the man behind the television persona, she decides the handsome klutz who chases things that go bump in the night isn't so silly after all. But is he worthy of her love?

Reader Advisory: This book contains anal sex and a little harmless domination.

Publisher's Note: The other books in this world is Miss Me Baby.

©2018 Wendi Zwaduk, All Rights Reserved

“Being a ghost explorer is a pain in the ass.”
Ryan Black leant back in his chair and folded his arms. He shook his head and scoped the scene in the cafeteria, adding, “It’s not fun anymore.”
Chasing spectral beings around buildings on the verge of demolition wasn’t his idea of fun, especially if he couldn’t find her—the one woman to understand him. He served the public frenzy for the afterlife on earth through his investigations, but it wasn’t enough. One of these days he’d break his neck while in search of proof ghosts existed. Sure, he could stroll out onto the main drag of Snake Falls, Ohio, and point out plenty of walking dead, but if the viewers couldn’t see the dead, then his proclamation wasn’t enough.
His video tech, Eddie Mowyer, one of the few living people Ryan called friend, tapped his thick fingers on his soda can. “If you hate it so much, then quit this job and do the weather for Channel Five. I can think of at least three hacks out there who’d take your place in a heartbeat just to get the hoards of girls. It’s not like you prove the existence of ghosts.”
“Ghosts do exist. If I’ve told you once, I’ve told you a million times.” Ryan balled the wrapper from his sub sandwich. “You know the reason I won’t give up.”
Eddie rolled his eyes and groaned. “I know, I know, not until you find her, whoever this fantasy woman is.”
“I want to find my wife.” How could Eddie not get the point? Ryan clenched his fist. Damn. The nights seemed to get lonelier the longer he spent away from Lis. When he closed his eyes, he could barely remember her smile. Fuck.
“I’ve heard the story so much, I’d swear it was mine.” Eddie folded his arms and hunched over the table. “You never want to hear this, but your beloved Felicity was a wench who couldn’t keep her legs closed unless it was for you. Maybe she meant what she said and really wants you to move on.”
“What if I don’t want to get over her?” God, he hated to lie. He wanted his life back.
“Ryan, someday you’ll want a woman to grind her butt into the middle of your back in the dead of night because she wants to stay warm. You’ll need that pair of arms to hold you when your day’s been a load of shit. That’s when you’ll wish you had moved on.” Eddie nodded over his shoulder. “Look around at the scenery. Ohio girls are the stuff of legend. For example, Meredith has those legs a man fantasises having wrapped around his waist.”
“Well, then there’s Caren. She’s got a nice rack and she’s single.”
“Pick nits.” Eddie snorted and shook his head. “You’ll shoot down all my ideas just to be right.” He scoped the cafeteria room once more. “What about Samara? She’s cute in a girl-next-door kinda way. All peaches and cream. I’ve caught her checking you out once or twice a day for the last year.” He pointed to Ryan. “She’d make a perfect forever girl.”
“I had my forever girl. But I could be wrong.” Samara checked him out? Hmm… Kinda nice to know the attraction wasn’t a figment of his undersexed imagination. He’d spent many a night fantasising about her, holding her, making love to her, waking up in the morning and seeing her smile.
At her table across the room, Samara curled up in her chair, paperback book propped in one hand and concentration written on her face. From his position, he couldn’t read the title, but he’d passed her desk enough times to know she liked romance novels. In the two years he’d worked in the same building with her, he’d heard her speak a total of three times but he knew her voice like his own.

Saturday, June 27, 2020

Once Upon a Time: How to Start A Story by L. A. Kelley

You have a hazy idea for a story or maybe its sharp and clear, but you’ve been sitting in front of the computer for hours staring at a blank screen. How the heck do you jumpstart this jalopy? Here are a few steps to get your mojo going. 

First Chapter Decisions
Beginning writers often think that the entire story needs to be plotted before any work can begin. That’s not necessarily so. Many writers don’t work with chapter by chapter outlines and only have a rough idea of the beginning, the middle, and the end, but there are several important points to keep in mind to help you get started on that first chapter.

What is the story about? Isn’t this the plot? Well, not entirely. The plot is the story, but the story hinges on the characters’ underlying motivation. There are often more than one, so it’s more important to ask, what is the theme? Or to put it simply, what issue or issues does this book tackle and how do the characters deal with it. Here are some common themes:

Coming of Age
Everlasting Love
Good versus Evil
Fate versus Free Will
Overcoming Personal Weaknesses
Social Mobility

Books are a way to explore themes in depth and readers should get at least a hint in the first chapter. (Some might argue in the first few paragraphs.) You don’t need to spell it out for the them. Descriptions are more effective. It’s often helpful to start a story with a character’s limitations. How does a shy woman extricate herself from a bad blind date? How does a character in a wheelchair tackle a staircase without a ramp? Conflict within the first few pages helps, too. This doesn’t mean start the chapter with a knife fight (although you can.) Conflict doesn’t have to by physical, but can also be personal (disagreement between two people) or mental (making a tough decision.)

That being said, main characters should be introduced early. Many publishers of romance novels want the heroine and hero to meet in the first chapter. I don’t think a hard and fast rule like that is necessary, but you want readers to engage with the novel early on. Major characters move the story along. That’s hard to do if they aren’t introduced until halfway through the book. On the other hand, don’t dump a load of characters in the first chapter. It’s too confusing for a reader to keep everyone straight. A writer builds a story like a bricklayer build a wall, one piece at a time. The reader needs get to know each character individually. Tough to do when many fight for attention at the same time.

Inciting Incident
“It was a dark and stormy night.”
This opening line is now considered trite, but, remember, the first time written, it was an attention grabber. A line like this can be a lead-in to an inciting incident. An inciting incident isn’t a random event, but action that will have reverberations through the rest of the book. The opening paragraphs should hook the reader and leave them wanting more and an inciting incident is just the ticket. It should tease the reader’s interest and offer a bit of mystery, but you don’t need a police procedural. An inciting incident in a romance novel could be the heroine catching sight of the new guy in town. An inciting incident in a science fiction novel could be the heroine noticing strange lights in the sky. The one thing you don’t want to do is solve the mystery right away.

So chose your main characters, decide the theme, select an inciting incident and write a first line to draw in the readers. You may find starting that novel isn’t so hard after all.

L. A. Kelley writes science fiction and fantasy adventures with humor, romance, and a touch of sass. Her life story's inciting incident involves chocolate.

Thursday, June 25, 2020


When we look into our writer’s tool box, we hoard all sorts of plans, prompts, gadgets and lists to make us more productive, our stories more organized, and our characters tow the line. But have you looked beyond these everyday helps for a more . . . ethereal answer?

I’ve posted about Tarot before, both as a component of one of my books and as a tool to creativity i.e. Arwen Lynch’s MAPPING THE HERO’S JOURNEY WITH TAROT: 33 Days to Finish You Book (highly recommended!). Lately, I’ve been using it more for intuitive development as well as my own existential vacay from the grimness of the daily news, especially after a November trip to New Orleans where I had palm, tea, numerology and card readings at Bottom of the Cup and Earth Odyssey (my go-to places to visit there!) that were eerily spot on. Suggestion: If you ever have this done (and if you visit NOLA make sure you do!), take a picture of your card spread or ask if you can record the reading on your phone so you can remember/look up the significance later. Most readers will allow it.

I’m just a dabbler, but I am a believer in things beyond coincidence. For example, while adding a scene during final edits to my soon to be released RISE BY MOONLIGHT, my quirky card reading character Ophelia casts a three card spread on her current situation that is eerily prophetic (considering I know what’s going to happen but had no control over the chosen cards!). Using my very cool Game of Thrones deck, her Past is The Sun: protection, sanctuary, positive relationship growth, family, and children. Her Present is the Eight of Swords: restriction, obligation, conformity, relationship road block. Her Future is the Seven of Swords: vigilance, mistrust, protect home and guard what’s yours. Considering the scenes are already written by yours truly, Phe’s cards are right on the money for meeting the man of her dreams who comes with a pack of young brothers and sisters whom she helps rescue using her family fortune (Past), that her father’s treachery has them in hiding, forcing her to choose between relationships old and new (Present), and finally, circumstances bring an invader into their home, threatening their safety and bringing them under the protection of those they can trust (Future). Thank you, cosmos for supporting my plotline!

Since my first forbidden purchase of the book Tarot Revealed when I was a young teen, I’ve collected dozens of favorite decks, each one unique in their art and take on the various cards. I’ve kept these because of the ‘feel’ they give me. I still rely of their printed guides for interpretation but am learning how to become more intuitive. I keep a journal of Spreads listing deck, question, spread and interpretation, and the percentage of accuracy is amazingly high. It’s not fortune telling but rather a guide for deeper understanding of self and situation. I love scrolling through my Pinterest pin suggestions and printing up interesting or helpful spreads to focus future casts and invite you to take a peek at my page. Each deck is different. Though connected to the same universal symbolism, they vary widely in their art and interpretations, some very dark, some light and fun, so research what you’re looking for. Make sure all 78 cards have unique graphics and not just the major arcana (face cards). That’s why I suggest Pinterest so you can see inside the deck and get a review. I won’t buy a sealed deck unless I’ve seen a sample after getting burned by several with meaningless interpretations or just plain ugly art. Tarot is the whole experience: visual, symbolic and spiritual. Half the fun is finding a set that “speaks” to you. Here’s a post that features some of what’s out there: My personal favorite decks are The Gilded Tarot (gorgeous and traditional), Games of Thrones (dark tie-in with show) and Steampunk (female-oriented and positive). The most disappointing was the very expensive Vampire deck. BTW, Oracle cards are NOT Tarot cards. The above post explains the difference.

Whether seeking a deeper focus on self or character, add Tarot to your paranormal tool box to assist you in exploring and deepening your development of plot or use it as a part of your plot, itself.

Nancy Gideon on the Web

Saturday, June 20, 2020

Let's Talk About Hex, Baby!

I am so excited to share my latest release, Bait N' Witch. A witch takes a job as a nanny for the hunter after her. Hiding in plain sight has never been so...magical!

BAIT N' WITCH (Brimstone Inc. #3)

Rowan McAuliffe has been hiding most of her life. Secretly trained in her powers by an unusual source, she’d been taught not to trust anyone. Especially other witches. However, after she was forced to perform a hateful act against her will, she now hides from the Covens Syndicate and their judgement.
Greyson Masters is the Syndicate’s best hunter. On top of the danger of his job, Greyson is trying to raise his triplet daughters alone, budding new witches who display an alarming combined power no one understands. Too bad he doesn’t have a clue how to deal with them.
Until Rowan walks in and the chaos settles for the first time in…well, ever.
Little does Greyson realize that his new nanny is the very witch he is hunting, and she’s been hiding right under his nose this whole time.
“If one is inclined to enjoy a steamy, paranormal, characterdriven tale with heart and humor then “Bait N’ Witch” delivers on all fronts!…Sprinkled with humor and a bit of mystery, this is one delicious romance that will satisfy even the most jaded of palates.”
~InD’tale Magazine
***This novella was previously self published as a Legendary Consultants story, but has undergone a complete re-edit. Scenes were added, things were changed, but the kissing still remains!


A chuckle had snuck into his voice, a suspicious quiver hovering about his lips.
Kissable lips. Damnable lips.
Given how rarely he smiled, a contrary part of her wanted to press harder, see if she could really make him laugh.
“I don’t agree with everything you say and do. There’s a difference. So…now that you know I accept you, appreciate you even, you can go back to bed knowing I’m just like every other woman.” She waved toward the hallway.
But he didn’t leave. Instead, he reached out and wrapped a red curl around his finger. “Any other woman of my acquaintance would be begging me to kiss her right now.”
She snorted to cover her rising panic, because dammit, she did too. “Arrogant. How do you know that?”
He smiled, knowing and unrepentant. “And not one of those women makes me want to pull her up against my body every time she speaks.” His voice dropped lower, rasping on her overly sensitized nerves.
“I’m your children’s nanny.” Her resistance was crumbling in a pathetic heap around her feet, a house built on sand, but she had to try to stop this before it got out of hand. “That’s it.”
The words echoed inside a strange hollowness that suddenly filled her. Why did knowing all she could ever be to Greyson Masters was a temporary nanny feel like this? Empty. Aching. It made no damn sense. Two weeks and she was smitten. With him and his family. And that was a tragedy worth crying over.
He continued to stare down into her eyes, and desperation had her grasping for a solution—even a shock tactic to stop this, even as she longed for it. With a ragged breath, she curled a hand in his shirt, and tugged him closer. “Fine. Just kiss me and get it out of your system, Grey.”
Before he could say or do anything, she went up on tiptoe and placed her lips over his.
The kiss caught fire faster than a spark to dead wood. Grey groaned low in his throat, and aching need took over her body and her mind while he pulled her in close, searing her with the heat of his body. Desire throbbed through every part of her, heavy and thudding, leaving her beautifully tingly and on edge as she lost herself in what he was doing with his lips, his tongue, his hands.
She couldn’t have ended it even if she’d wanted to. Gods and goddesses, she’d just discovered what heaven felt like. Taking it away now would be like taking away a child’s birthday toy. The sexy stubble on his jaw rasped against her skin, and she reveled in the sensation wanting to press against him, rub her cheek to his. Grey was all man, and she wanted more.
With another groan, he pulled back, then stepped away, breathing hard, and the cool air that hit her in his absence was like being dunked in an ice bath.
He didn’t say anything for a long moment. Then he ran his hand through his hair, spiking it up even more than before, making her fingers itch to smooth it down for him. “I shouldn’t have done that.”
Pride and a fierce self-protective instinct kicked in. She tipped her chin up and gave him her best nothing big has happened here smile. Hopefully she managed to look amused and bored at the same time. “You didn’t. I did. Now that we got it out of the way, we can move on.”


TheDemigodComplex-500 ShiftOutofLuck-mock-v4 BaitNWitch-final-500
Brimstone Inc. is set in the same world as the Fire’s Edge & Inferno Rising series!


Friday, June 19, 2020

You Can Use Real Disaster to Create a Disaster in Your Story; or, My Neighborhood has Literally Gone to Hell by Elizabeth Alsobrooks

Bighorn Fire in Tucson
I guess we all know about disasters, whether on the personal, community, national or global level. They certainly make enough movies about them, even having a category for them: disaster movies. Writers need to use disasters of some sort, some degree, some length, with various outcomes and reactions, in their stories. This can be the point where the character(s) reaches that no way out, this can’t possibly end well moment.

There have been so many global disasters this year, from the pandemic, to looting and burning of entire city blocks, and more localized disasters like the one I’m dealing with right here at home, a wildfire that continues to burn and endanger the lives of wildlife and community after community in various ready, set, go stages of evacuation, with an ever-growing number of personnel from multiple states engaged in trying to get it back under control for over two weeks of what they predict will be four before it’s contained.

Hotshot team headed into the fire zone of Santa Catalina Mountain Range
An actual disaster, even an internal one, can be more than a single plot point. It may be an underlying  theme. It can certainly be used to show the moral fiber of characters, by how they react to it, what they think about it, or the way it affects themselves or others.      

Though useful this can be tricky, too. Writing to a broad audience, most authors do not want to become embroiled in politics or controversial current events. That does not mean you can completely ignore a major event taking place on a global or national scale, and especially not within a community or family unit.

A Hero, if ever there was one!
I live in the foothills, a mile from this still burning and smouldering view, to the right of this road.

People always talk about researching current events in historical novels, to make sure they seem authentic. That makes sense. But doesn’t it make sense to also note modern current events when writing a contemporary tale?

How could you write a story that takes place in 2020 without even noting the pandemic? Every person in the county, most of the world in fact, has been affected by it. As the author you get to decide where in the pandemic event your characters exist, how they are affected, if they adhere to guidelines, if they know anyone who gets the disease and if they themselves are diagnosed, and the consequences of it all. It’s quite easy if you set a novel during this time to use it for your ‘disaster’ moment. 

Closed, Catalina Hwy, up to Mt. Lemmon to the Ski Resort and Summerhaven

What about the protests? The realm of possibilities is endless. Imagine a young kid from a poor family, from a wealthy family, whose mom finds a $3,000 purse under their bed the day after they protested with their friends the night before? Imagine a bi-racial couple who have different views of particular events. So many possibilities, but it is still not easy. Many authors won’t touch controversial topics, but there are ways to do so in a non-controversial way. Not even having the characters comment on catastrophic current events, especially those that last for months and affect everyone just won’t seem right, or real, or current.

There are several major wildfires in Arizona right now. How would it look if I set my story up near one and didn’t even mention it? I actually live a mile from one that has blazed to nearly 50 square miles in the last two weeks, and they don’t think it’ll be out until at least July 4, if we don’t get rain. Well, this is the desert and though monsoon season just started there is no call for rain anytime soon, and the temperatures are in triple digits. So much exciting material in a potential ‘setting’ or ‘disaster’. So many possible consequences, characters, etc.   I mean yes, I am still afraid and watchful, but I am also able to view it with an author's lens. These same experiences can be used for many other plot lines and character traits, such as futuristic events, or fantasy adaptations.

There are over 1000 personnel working on the Bighorn fire, and it did start with a lightning strike right across the street from me. To date they've spend 12.5 million dollars combating the flames. Smoke is billowing, firebombs are being dropped to try to prevent the fire from moving toward homes (and then the smoke does look like a war zone). A half-dozen various helicopters (that are able to refill 1200 gals of water in 45 sec.) dropping water, a jet laying down fire retardant to help slow the fire down for the firefighters with hoses, the eight hotshot crews from five states trekking across that mountain’s impassible rattlesnake infested terrain with sweaty soot-covered faces, in full gear carrying backpacks and shovels to create and hold fire lines to save neighborhoods. They call these units of value and all such units must be saved, but we call them homes. The goal of these brave personnel is to save lives and property, in that order. 

The forest service personnel are there, trying to save wildlife, rare species of fish from the tiny lakes, trying to monitor movement of bears and other animals like the bighorn sheep they've reintroduced to the state park. The Catalina State Park and Coronoado National Forest are engaged, thousands of Saguaro cactus (in all the world they only grow here in the Sonoran desert) usually don't burn, but they are exploding due to the invasive non-native buffelgrass the forest personnel have been fighting. An expert from the desert museum estimates that we've lost over 2000 of them. The invasive grass someone thoughtlessly introduced here is also burning hot and bringing the fire faster and closer to homes. 

People with drones illegally flying over the fire have caused ariel support to be grounded at critical times, endangering lives and slowing containment.

So many people are in various ready, set, go stages of evacuation, sometimes occillating between the stages, cars packed and at the ready at all times. They say to write what you know, because it’s easier, and it is. For example, I know first-hand the absolute terror of wondering if the fire is going to be wind-turned back toward me again, of anxiously watching the news and going outside to look over at the mountain, disappointed when I still see flames. 

So don’t forget that you need a disaster and that it often involves the setting, the time, the character’s feelings, motivations and reactions. Is your character a firefighter, a paramedic, a forest ranger, a geologist, a meteorologist, an evacuee who can't find their child, someone who gets injured or loses someone, or who down the line suffers from PTSD and their disaster is internal? You decide.

A better disaster creates a more interesting plot line, story and character. If you are given the opportunity, be sure to observe the details and the people. Stay safe, but have fun being a writer who gathers ideas from real life!

If you'd like to read more about plot points, pick up a copy of my nonfiction book, The Young Adult Writer's Journey, which I'm very proud to say just made the semifinals for another literary contest!