Tag Archive for: Colorado

Putting the Character in Character

Happy Valentines all. So excited today’s my day to blog because it gives me an opportunity to interrupt this session to tell you about the last day of my sale. I’m traditionally published and my publisher places my books on sale, not me.  So, before I get to my blog, allow me to a quick bit of promotion to tell you about this significant discount.

Now, back to The Stiletto Gang’s regularly scheduled blog  and a bit of background on Black Pearl;)

By Donnell
Ann Bell

One of the
hardest things for me to do as a writer is to create characters. Some authors
have told me, “Oh, my character came to me fully formed.” Others say, “Oh, I do
character interviews to find out what makes him/her/them tick.”

Me? I ask my
characters, “Who are you?” and most rudely shout back, “You’re the author, you
figure it out.”

Not helpful.
Makes me want to stuff them in a drawer until they can play nice.

Still, I can
have an amazing plot, but if the characters don’t come alive, then my book is
nothing more than words strewn on a page. No matter what genre you read, books
are all about emotion, and characters bring emotion to life.

What’s more,
without strong, relatable characters, readers might give a book a try, but they
will just as quickly put the book down.

So, because
I need characters in a book, and because my characters are stubborn and won’t
talk to me, I cheat.

Yes, you
heard it here first.

If my
protagonist is in law enforcement, I interview members of law enforcement. If 
my protagonist is an FBI agent, I interview FBI agents. If my killer is an
insane whack job…I interview mental health professionals and read books. (I
fully admit I don’t interview whack jobs). By using these techniques, I find my
muse comes to life and the characters cooperate.

In Black
Pearl
, my November 2019 release, I came across a new problem. I wrote my
first female police officer. One would think, oh, that’s easy, you’re a woman. Au
contraire
, this character really dug in her heels. She had the nerve to
call me, her creator, a fraud.

What did I
do about it? I went to some fellow authors who in their past careers were law
enforcement: Kathy Bennett, Phyllis Middleton, and Robin Burcell. I interviewed
them and asked them about their experiences. These women were beyond helpful.

I took those
results to my female police officer character. But instead of saying, “Great
job,” she said, “You’re getting warmer. You need to know more. You need to get
inside my head.”

Because
she’s not real and I couldn’t shoot her, I did a lot of groaning and pacing.
Then another idea came to me. I’m a graduate of citizens academies for my local
police and sheriff’s office, so I marched into the Gold Camp Police Station one
morning and asked the woman behind the glass partition if I could do a
ride-along.

“Of course,”
she replied and pulled out her clipboard. “Fill this out.”

I hesitated.
“Thank you. I will. However, is there any chance I could do a ride-along with a
female police officer? And is there any chance she could be a field training
officer?”

The woman lifted an eyebrow. “Will there be anything else?”

I thought
about it. “No that about covers it.”

As events
turned out, there was a female field training officer in the Gold Camp Police
Station at that very moment. The receptionist paged her; she came out to the
front desk, introduced herself, said she was too busy to accommodate me just
then, but two weeks later we did a ride-along on a twelve-hour shift.

She was
amazing. Professional, smart, everything that Kathy, Phyllis and Robin exuded
in spades. I saw how she conducted herself with the public and listened to her
comments in private. Further, she helped me brainstorm my character, and one
remark, she made hit me with such force, I took her at her word. “Please don’t
make her a slut. We don’t get where we are by not being professional and
smart.”

I went home
after that shift and did my character outline and that’s when my character told
me her name. “My name is Allison Shannon,” she said. “I come with plenty of
baggage, but I’ve risen above it.”

I’ll close
by saying, I’m intensely proud of Allison and she’s one of the best characters
I’ve ever created. But as you can see, I didn’t create her alone. She’s a mix
of some remarkable women I admire. She’s working in a man’s world. She’s
tough, she’s formidable, but vulnerable at the same time, and she’s waiting to
tell you her story.

Thank you
for being with me today.

~ Donnell

About the Author: Donnell Ann Bell began her writing
career at the
Colorado
Springs Business Journal and Pikes Peak Parent Newsmagazine before
turning to fiction. An award-winning author, including a two-time Golden
Heart finalist, she is the author of
Black Pearl, book one of a series, Buried
Agendas, Betrayed, Deadly Recall and The Past Came Hunting,
all of which have been Amazon digital bestsellers.
Black Pearl is her
latest release, readers can expect book two of the Cold Case series in 2022, and she’s back to work on book three of the series. Follow her on
Facebook and Twitter or
www.donnellannbell.com

 

 

 

 

Neighbors and Critique Partners

By: Donnell Ann Bell

Hello! I am the newest member of the Stiletto Gang, and as a mystery writer and a woman who loves shoes, I will do my best to fit in. I
wrote an article for Stiletto Gang way back in the day https://donnellannbell.com/characters/
 Call me biased, but I still think it’s relevant.

Much has changed since that article, however. I’ve
written more books, I’ve relocated from Colorado Springs, Colorado to Las
Cruces, New Mexico, and with the exception of COVID-19, so far so good. This
city, thirty minutes from El Paso, Texas, has an amazing culture and some of
the kindest people I’ve ever met. Imagine (pre-COVID by the way), walking into
the grocery store when somebody sneezes, and from every surrounding aisle,
people shout, “God bless you.” Also, while I may miss Colorado’s green, you
can’t beat New Mexico’s sunsets.

Land of Enchantment’s Sunset 

One of the hardest things about leaving Colorado after
thirty-plus years was saying goodbye to lifetime friendships. Las Cruces has a
way to go to compete, but my next-door neighbor is working hard at making the
list. She arrived on my doorstep with cookies (my downfall), and our friendship
quickly became reciprocal. Like me, she has a creative side. Where I write, she
paints.  

Tuscany Village by Carol Oxford 

One of the things I love about my new home is my front courtyard. But it was kind of sparse, so I went to work decorating. I found this adorable chihuahua and put him just out my front door. Wouldn’t you know it, though, my artistic neighbor pointed out something was missing.

Every chihuahua needs …
… a friend

One person I didn’t have to say goodbye to although we live
1,882 miles apart is my critique partner, Lois Winston, who I’d met online,
then in person on a transport van that delivered us to a conference. We’ve
exchanged chapters and brainstormed for years. We walk while we talk (because
we’re notorious multitaskers), and I can’t tell you how many “aha” moments we’ve
had via our treks.

I’m also close to Stiletto Gang member Cathy Perkins. She’s
a great conference roommate, by the way (Portland as I recall), and she and her
husband have visited Las Cruces. She’s a major talent, and one day I hope to
see her gorgeous home in the Pacific Northwest. 

Donnell, Cathy & spouses

That’s basically my introductory blog in a multi-cracked
nutshell. Looking forward to sharing thoughts, ideas and hopefully a little
laughter.

 Do you have a
neighbor you love and/or a valued critique partner? In my opinion, they make
the world a whole lot brighter.

About  Donnell’s latest book: A cold case
heats up when a 9-1-1 call puts police at a Denver murder scene pointing
investigators to the abduction of a Colorado teenager fourteen years before.
The connection? A calling card
a single black pearl—is found on the newest victim. Is the murder
a copycat? Or has a twisted serial killer, thought dead or in prison, returned
to kill again?

The hunt for a multi-state killer is
on and brings together an unexpected team: a Denver Major Crimes police
lieutenant; an FBI special agent who investigated the previous murders, a
rookie FBI agent with a specialty in psychology; and the only living victim of
the Black Pearl Killer is now a cop.

For Special
Agent Brian DiPietro, the case is an opportunity to find answers. For Officer Allison
Shannon, the case will force her to face down the town that blamed her for
surviving when another did not. And for both DiPietro and Shannon, it’s a
chance to find closure to questions that have tormented them both for years.


Bio: Donnell Ann Bell gave up her nonfiction career in
newspapers and magazines because she was obsessed with the idea she could write
a mystery or thriller. An award-winning author, including the 2020 Colorado
Book Award finalist for her latest release Black Pearl, A Cold Case Suspense,
Donnell’s other books have included Buried Agendas, Betrayed, Deadly Recall and
The Past Came Hunting, all of which have been Amazon bestsellers. Currently
she’s writing Book Two of her Cold Case series. For further information or buy information, please go to www.donnellannbell.com
 

 

 

 

Juliana Aragon Fatula Stands with Standing Rock

Save the Water Save the People

Here is my news: I’ve been selected as a finalist in the High Plains Book Award for Poetry in Billings, Montana. I’m so excited for the road trip. I’ve never been to Montana.

I want to win, of course, claro que si! However, I’m a finalist! I’m thrilled to be one of a handful of regional poets who will battle for the prize.

We should have a dance off and whoever dances the longest and the best, wins. I’d win that contest for sure. I love to dance. I love to sing. I love to stand on stage and quote Shakespeare.

Why can’t I ever play Hamlet. Why do I get to play the maid, the cook, the Indian, the Mexican, the wino, the drug dealer, the homeless woman, the homeless man. Why do directors cast me as the drug addicted, pregnant single parent teenager?

I accepted those roles because I was so thrilled to be doing what I love and getting paid to perform. However, in 1995 that all changed. I toured the world with my friends and we performed for the Department of Defense in los azores, Sicily, diego Garcia, and the United Arab Emirates.

Three Denver, Colorado Chicanos: the Latin Locomotions arrived in Kuwait and shuffled to the exit. We though someone in uniform would be at the airport to collect us, our luggage, and Manuel’s guitars.

The base sent a woman in civilian clothing to retrieve us. She searched the crowd for three Chicagoans. Typo, easy mistake, who knows but we missed our ride.

We suddenly felt panicky. The airport security were dressed in the traditional white from top to bottom.  They were packing M-16s. They looked like Chicanos. We smiled. They remained stoic.

We didn’t speak Arab, we had no Arab money, no telephone number for the base.

We searched for an airport employee who spoke English. We ran into a man who smiled when he saw us. He smiled from ear to ear. He said, “Hello.”

We said, “Help! Please?”

He took us to his office, he gave us water and fruit, and asked us where we were from. He recognized that we were Chicano, not Chicagoans, or Arabs. When we told him we were from Colorado. He slapped his knee and said, “I graduated from Ft. Collins Colorado State University!” He asked what our plans were in Kuwait.

When we told him we were entertainers. We told him we were visiting for Hispanic Awareness month in October and we were performing on base the next day. He became animated and waving his hands in the air. I saw Chicano Theatre in Ft. Collins, Denver, and Pueblo. I loved it. Can you sing some songs for us.

By then the entire office surrounded us and we had our first audience. We called our agent in Denver. She called the base and sent a ride to pick us up.

We said good bye to our new friends and were never so happy to arrive on base and settle in for the night. We slept in the barracks with the soldiers; the showers and toilets were down the walk, five barracks down the walk.

I’ve had some interesting experiences and traveled from the mountains of Colorado to the volcanos in Sicily, to the Mediterranean, to the Persian Gulf and to the Indian Ocean. I learned about other cultures, languages, food, and I experienced the joy of giving back to the men and women who protect us back in the states.

Everywhere we travelled and performed the locals would attend even if they didn’t speak English they enjoyed the music and dancing.

The soldiers both men and women were welcoming, appreciative, and very friendly. We were taken on short site seeing trips during the day and performed every night we weren’t travelling. We had no crew, no techies, nada. The soldiers were our crew. The men and women offered to carry speakers, guitar cases, and stayed to strike after the show.

I learned about the Arabs and the Persians, and Sicilians, and the Portuguese, and the natives of Madagascar. And what I learned is that music is the language that communicates, peace, love, understanding, soul, and fun. The soldiers and the locals danced at our performances. And when we had a night off, they took us dancing in their clubs. I met merchant sailors and Brits in Diego Garcia and fought off their drunken fumbles to get me to dance with them. But never did anyone do anything inappropriate. 

We met people from all over the U.S. but we also met Chicanos from Denver, Pueblo, Colorado Springs, Alamosa, and they were our biggest fans and wanted to thank us for singing corridos and telling cuentos about their people. Hispanic Awareness Month in the military in 1995 during peace time.

Today, we have someone who wants to deport people of color, ban Muslims, and wants to use Nuclear Weapons, water boarding torture and stop and frisk. He wants to divide our country. I say, we unite and show him we are the United States, not the Divided and segregated United States.

Please, hug your neighbor, kiss your children, help your coworkers and begin to see people, human beings, souls.  The differences between cultures makes us interesting, unique, educational. Why fear the unknown? Embrace our otherness.

Don’t build walls and plow through the reservations of the Standing Rock Sioux, stop hating, stop fearing, stop. Just stop and listen to Muslims, Catholics, Atheists, Brown people, Asians, African Americans and learn from one another. And when they tell you what offends them, tell them you didn’t know and apologize.

Saying Goodbye and Planning for the Future

Hi Gang,
I’m turning in my Stiletto heels with this post. The amount of writing and promo and releasing and of course, the day job, has caused me to cry uncle.

If you don’t know, I have two series – The Tourist Trap and the new Cat Latimer Mystery series that releases to book stores in September 2016. I have the lovely cover, but I’ve been sworn to secrecy until my publisher does a cover reveal. So watch for that coming up.

I hate not doing things well, and I’m struggling to get everything on my list completed. So I’ve been contemplating what I can juggle. I’ll be focusing my blogging on my website – www.lynncahoon.com
Stop by soon. There’s a gooey butter cake recipe that was the hit of the Thanksgiving table this year.

Anyway, I wanted to leave you with my favorite time management techniques since it’s almost time to set new goals (or resolutions) for 2016.

#5 – List out what you HAVE to do. Set these deadlines in ink on your 2016 planner. What? You don’t have a planner? Get one. Digital or paper (I still love my paper), a planner is an easy way to set reachable goals each month and adjust when emergencies happen.

#4 – Set annual goals – Want to save money? Set a yearly goal, then work at it each month. You’ll be surprised how fast those dollars add up if your consistent. Same with word count. You don’t write a 100K novel in a week. (Or at least I don’t, but I hear rumors it’s been done.) You write it by getting your daily word count done every day. 500 words a day equals  176,000 words in a year. Or a novel plus two weeks of vacation time.

#3 – Divide your goals into month’s targets. It takes me just about two months to write a cozy. A little less to write a contemporary series size romance.  I know what I’m writing all of 2016 and had to move some of my want-to-write projects to 2017. A successful author early in my career told me they had a spreadsheet for the next five years on what they were writing. Now that I’m contracted, I understand the necessity of her process.

#2 – Make a weekly to do list – I have a list I write in my planner each week, filling in the days with appointments or book related activities. This week, I’m attending my critique group, so my word count for that day will be slim to none, but I can adjust to other days. Planning to reach goals during the week gives you the flexibility and accountability.

#1 – Do one thing today before 11 am that moves you toward your goal. Just one thing. Rinse and repeat tomorrow.

I hope that helps you take your dreams and turn them into reality.  I’ve enjoyed my time here with the Stiletto Gang and I’m sure I’ll see many of you out there on the web. Thank you for being part of my virtual family.

Lynn