LinkedinTwitterThe DetailsConnectBlog Facebook Meet the TherapistHome For Writers

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Character Clinic: April Herring

Today, I've got Katrina's character April on my couch. April resides in a fantasy. She's 18 and has been deaf since birth. She's a professional diball player (like soccer, but where the ball is moved around by magic instead of feet). She never really learned how to speak properly, always signing at home or using text-to-speech, so she's frustrated and embarrassed at not being understood sometimes, especially since she left home to pursue her diball career. She wants to connect with someone outside her family, and her diball partner Travis just might be that person, but he likes to dive into things without thinking, and it drives careful April crazy.

Katrina wants to know: Any suggestions on ways that Travis could help push April out of her comfort zone that don't depend on the fact that he can hear and she can't? Also, I know she's not going to get better overnight, so what would be considered reasonable progress?

April -

It's understandable that someone with a hearing disability--and subsequent speaking challenge--would shy away from conversations. It's great that you can connect with Travis through sign (your comfort zone), and hopefully you'll experience some acceptance through him that might make you less self-conscious of your speech. People have a way of doing that to us. They imbibe us with confidence that we might lack were it not for our relationship with them.

I think it would be interesting to see what would happen when both you and Travis were taken out of your comfort zones (say, the diball arena, for sure) and were forced to rely on each other. So then, it wouldn't be all about Travis pushing you out of your comfort zone and falling into that literary cliche. Now, as to what the two of you could do, perhaps bringing in a subplot would help.

Ask yourself, What's the one thing that you'd never do? Donald Maass says we need to work that into our novels, to make our characters true to life, layered. So once you answer that question, you'll have a great start on where Travis and you can go.

I'm reminded of The King's Speech, with Colin Firth. He had a horrible stutter, and it took his speech therapist thinking outside the box and having the king read a portion of a book with extremely loud music playing in his ears for the king to be pushed to the next level--to an understanding that he does have it in him. Even though you can't hear, it's a similar disability in that you need something to play loudly in your ears/mind--loud enough to drown out the fact that you can't hear and have trouble speaking...something to make those facts about you less important, make them slip into the background and not define who you are.

You're improvement, your confidence, will gradually come. There are going to be moments when you're not going to want to speak (probably to someone new, or to someone you think is important), but your experiences through the book will help you face these hurdles. Some people never get over the fear of public speaking, but they manage it--and their anxiety--and it's realistic. They don't get cured, per se, but that's the goal of help make life's problems manageable, not necessarily to go away.

Hope you've enjoyed your time on the couch, April. If you want to go deeper, you know where to find me.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Character Clinic: Taggert

Today, I've got 20-year-old Taggert on the couch, the brain child of author Angela. Taggert flirts with danger and can be reckless, something he enjoys and that makes him feel free. He used to be the personal messenger for Prince Zven, carrying orders all over the kingdom that he later learns sentenced many innocent people to death in villages while at the same time putting the blame on pirates. Taggert is helping Jocelyn, the prince's betrothed, run away, and he's developed feelings for her. 

Angela wants to know: How will Taggert react--given his personality--when he finds out that his thrill-seeking behavior has endangered everyone he cares about? What is a reasonable response and subsequent actions?

Taggert -

You like to skirt the wild side of things, that much is certain. It's an interesting conundrum, given that your greatest fear is that you'll hurt someone without meaning to. It's a little baffling to read that and then have you write that "danger is good for the soul."

I'd have to ask you whether each and every time you face a danger--get an adrenaline rush--are you going back to how you felt when you dove off that cliff when your mother was chasing you? Do you relive that? Or are you simply focused on the rush of endorphins in your body, how it makes you feel physically to buck convention and rules?

The answer to that question will actually tell you a lot about yourself and what your mental state might be if when you get someone else hurt because of your recklessness. The big difference between how you'll feel at that moment and how you felt when you realized that the letters you were delivering were putting people to death will be the personal involvement factor.

You yourself didn't put those people to death, and there is a mental way of removing yourself from the outcome due to that fact. But if you chose a reckless behavior that ends up harming someone else--even if you yourself got harmed in the process, as well, you'll be racked with guilt.

Guilt affects everyone differently, but you'll probably react one or two ways: 1) you'll forsake your reckless behavior and try to make restitution with those you've harmed or 2) you'll figure yourself beyond forgiveness and engage in ever reckless behavior, ultimately to your own destruction, emotionally or physically. Sounds pretty dramatic, but that about sums it up. Your author will know which will be more likely to be your response.

Hope you've enjoyed your time on the couch today. If you want to go deeper, you know where to find me.

Monday, August 29, 2011

What is Your Character Willing to Die For?

I'm finishing up my series on getting to know your main characters better at Seriously Write today. So far, I've covered three questions that you need to ask your MCs, including:

So far, these questions have all been taken from my character intake form found here. But today's question is NOT found there (you'll find out why)...and yet, it's still important:

Question 4: What concept or principle would you be willing to die for?

The basis of this question stems from Dr. Stanley Williams book, The Moral Premise. Characters usually aren’t motivated to action by trivial thoughts and feelings. They, like real human beings, have core values that ultimately influence what they do, say, and think.

Click here to read the rest of the article.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Fair fun

Just testing my capacity to vlog from my iPhone!

YouTube Video


Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Weekend Funnies

Free Range

Friday, August 26, 2011

Friday Free Association

The word is........


First commenter free associates with the above word. Second commenter takes the first commenter's word and free associates, and so on.

Remember -- FIRST thing that comes to mind. GO!!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

How Important is Moral Premise?

I used to think characters were the most important aspect of fiction writing. (This from a character-driven novelist/therapist. Go figure.) But after doing some research, I’ve come to the conclusion that the moral premise might be the most important thing in a book outside of the actual story premise.

The moral premise of a story is a single sentence statement describing the lesson of the story as it reflects on real life. Filmmakers have gotten the hang of this quicker than fiction writers, but Aristotle knew way back when that there was a correlation between a play’s moral message and it’s popularity. (Read his Poetics.)

When the moral premise of a movie sits “right” with the audience, that movie does better in the box office. This is was Dr. Stan William's book, The Moral Premise, is all about. Word of mouth spreads like my white cat sheds hairs—prolifically. On the flip side, if the moral premise is deceitful, the movie doesn’t do so well and people don’t tell their friends to go see it.

The same can and should be said for fiction. 

There are three ways people learn: experience, observation, and lecture. Lecture has the least to recommend it, experience the most, or the reason that the learner is using more of their senses. The more senses engaged, the greater the emotional tension and physical/emotional risk, thus the deeper the learning.

But fiction is unique in that is puts the reader in the position of learning via vicarious experience. The reader is (hopefully) transported into a new world that should become real to them. The reader should put themselves into the protagonist’s shoes, feeling the butterflies before a first kiss or the building apprehension the longer the killer goes free.

Some authors are simply gifted storytellers, weaving a tale that enthralls us. Others utilize the moral premise as well as draw from their innate author skills, and these are the books that capture the nation and beyond.

I’ll draw upon the cult following of The Twilight Saga to make my point. This set of books took America by storm. Stephenie Meyer wrote a book that spoke to the hearts of women (and men who will admit it), both young and old. Why?

Twilight is about love conquering all and not being able to choose with whom you fall in love. It’s a modern-day fairytale. (Why do you think factories are still pumping out DVDs of Cinderella and Beauty and the Beast? They know that little girls everywhere dream about a prince coming one day. It’s timeless.)

Meyer’s book is essentially about Bella finding her prince. True, he’s a vamp, which means they have a few obstacles to overcome, namely Edward’s lust for her blood. But what book wouldn’t be complete without obstacles? It’s the obstacles that become your story premise.

Hopefully this simplistic assessment of Twilight’s universal appeal through its moral premise will get the wheels turning in your head about your story’s premise.

Q4U: Can you narrow it down to one sentence? Is it something that people can relate to, that they will want to talk about on their commute into town?

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Therapeutic Writing

About three weeks ago, I was approached by a representative from All Things Healing: an online community for healing mind, body, spirit, planet. As a result, my first article on Therapeutic Writing is up on their site! Please click here and let me know what you think!

(It might be a bit familiar to some of my earlier subscribers, but new to most all the rest of you. Leave a comment on the site and show some support!) And while you're there, check out the rest of the site....very interesting.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Character Clinic: Vianne Lawson and "Save the Cat"

Today's character on the couch is Vianne, the brainchild of J Elayne. Vianne is the 15-year-old adopted daughter of the governor of Alabama. She's a bit antisocial, has had suicidal ideation and mood swings, and doesn't have any friends. She's never been able to do anything "right." She likes this boy at school, yet she also wants to have a friendship with his girlfriend.

J Elayne wants to know: Are there any more ways to make her come across as more sympathetic? How do I get in her head without confusing the reader or turning the reader off?

Vianne -

Since it does make you seem a bit sleazy to like the girl's boyfriend but yet want a relationship with them both, your author will have to work hard to make you likable from the get-go in order for the reader to want to follow you through your internal transformation or maturation.

I've been reading this book called Save the Cat: The Last Book on Screenwriting You'll Ever Need. I think that you'll find this little "save the cat" nugget helpful in figuring out how to make yourself likable and relatable. Read on.

Cause here's the skinny: there is actually a relatively small amount of the population who is antisocial. There are people all over the continuum of antisocial, for sure, but just the characteristics of antisocial personality disorder (APD) would make writing a likable character daunting for even a master novelist. (Oh, a 15-year-old can't have APD diagnosed until they are 18. Just FYI.)

What Blake Snyder says in Save the Cat is really helpful. He was writing this for screenplay writers, but the same is true for novelists. In every movie or book, there needs to be a scene where the main character "saves the cat," or does something that makes the audience/reader like them. This means within chapter one for a novel.

It could be something simple like helping a kid pick up their textbooks after being bullied or stooping to pick up some trash in the cafeteria so that the custodian doesn't have to. The reader just needs a little something to sit up and say, "Hey, that was really nice." It makes reading about your character in less-than-shining lights easier and more palatable.

As for how you can get in her head without turning the reader off (I assume because of the darker nature of her struggles), I'd suggest to go with humor. Bonnie Grove's Talking to the Dead was an amazing read about a very trying mental disturbance one woman goes through after the death of her husband. The humor helped soften the darkness.

I hope you've enjoyed your time on the couch, Vianne. If you want to take it deeper, you know where to find me.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Regrets and What They Say About Your Character

Join me over at Seriously Write today as I continue my series of how to get to know your main character better through four questions. Today we're on Question 3. 

If you missed the previous two posts in this series, you can click here for Question 1 (What is your greatest fear?) and here for Question 2 (What is your biggest acomplishment?). But for now, I’ll just jump right in to the next question.

Question 3: What is your biggest regret?

The answer to this question truly reveals a goldmine of information about someone, on at least two layers that I’ll explore further here.

If a character’s regret centers around themselves, how they were unable to get a big promotion or marry the right person, that’s revealing in and of itself. If it centers on how someone else was mistreated or abused or harmed in some way, that gives information. Even more so, if the character’s regret centers on something they said or did in the past that harmed someone else.

Click here to continue reading and then come back and talk about your biggest regret and what you think that says about YOU.

Sunday, August 21, 2011


The winner of K. Dawn Byrd's new release Mistaken Identity is Jaleh D!

Congratulations, and thanks for entering, everyone!

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Friday, August 19, 2011

Friday Free Association Chain

The word is........


First commenter free associates with the above word. Second commenter takes the first commenter's word and free associates, and so on.

Remember -- FIRST thing that comes to mind. GO!!

For a chance to win K. Dawn Byrd's latest release, Mistaken Identity, click here!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Four Domains of Emotional Intelligence

Last week, I introduced the concept of Emotional Intelligence by describing what people without it have issues with. You can click here to find out more. Then I put out a call for definitions of emotional intelligence from my readers. I only had two brave souls, Keli and Shilpa, but they did a great job! Thanks ladies!

According to Dr. Daniel Goleman, author of Emotional Intelligence (1995), Emotional Intelligence (EI) refers to the ability to perceive, control and evaluate emotions. So Keli was right in that it is the ability to look outside yourself, but it's also the ability to look inward, too.

Goleman theorizes that there are four parts to EI: self-awareness, self-management, social awareness (empathy), and relationship management (social skills).

Now you know our characters don't have all of these! Any book would end with a better character arc if your characters can improve in one or more of these areas. Let's look at them closer. Below is a chart that nicely shows how the four areas are spread over actions/observations and personal/social arenas.

  • Self-awareness – The ability to recognize your own emotions and how they affect your thoughts and behavior, know your strengths and weaknesses, and have self-confidence. This is the ability to step outside yourself with focused observation of how you feel and react in various situations.
  • Self-management – The ability to control impulsive feelings and behaviors, manage your emotions in healthy ways, take initiative, follow through on commitments, and adapt to changing circumstances. Having a non-reactive analytic approach to your feelings and problem solving to increase appropriate responses.
  • Social awareness – The ability to observe and understand the emotions, needs, and concerns of other people, pick up on emotional cues, feel comfortable socially, and recognize the power dynamics in a group or organization. In a nutshell, this is empathy, a fundamental "people skill."
  • Relationship management – The ability to develop and maintain good relationships, communicate clearly, inspire and influence others, work well in a team, and manage conflict. In other words, having good social skills and being competent in relating to the emotions of others and remain connected.
So think about how your character fares in these areas and pick at least one to really carry them through on an emotional intelligence arc. People like to be around high EQ people, and reading about people reaching a greater level of EQ is equally satisfying.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Character Clinic: Joe Cooper

Lorna's character Joe is on the couch today. He's a high school senior quarterback whose biggest dream is to play for the NFL--preferably the San Francisco 49ers. He has a girlfriend Rebecca who he loves dearly. One night, he was texting Rebecca and not paying attention to the road. He hit and killed a jogger. To make matters worse, he ran from the scene and didn't tell anyone. The jogger just happens to be the uncle of Cheryl, the head cheerleader at his school who has always had a crush on him. She's vowed to find out who is responsible for killing her uncle. Yikes!

Lorna wants to know: What is Joe thinking or feeling as he goes through his life after the accident? Will he have trouble in school or make mistakes playing football? Anything important I need to know?

Joe -

You've killed someone. Unless you are an unfeeling, uncaring person (which your intake form would suggest otherwise), then you are definitely going to be affected--seriously--by this traumatic event. The guilt, at times, might be unbearable.

The nightmares you mentioned are evidence of post-traumatic stress, as would any flashbacks while you're awake, avoiding the scene of the crime, perhaps even avoiding your car (opting to ride your bike to school, etc). People with PTSD generally try to avoid any and all reminders of the event, which might mean suddenly Cheryl makes you uncomfortable (besides the fact that she's after you and doesn't know it) because she reminds you of her uncle. Or it might play out in your life by the fact that you don't want to text your girlfriend anymore. Texting reminds you of that split second when you heard your car crunch into something on the road.

It's different for everyone, but *normal* people would probably act different enough after an event like this that even the casual observer would know something was "up" with them, whether they could figure out what it is or not. You'd likely be more withdrawn. Your grades might suffer. Your game might suffer. Life might suddenly crowd you out.

You'll probably be mentally hounded by questions, like, "Could I have done something to save him?" "Should I turn myself in?" "Should I have died too?" "Is my life worth living after having done this?" This will be excellent inner tension for him.

I feel that I must say that any reader is going to want him to come clean by the end of the book, or not only will the book be unsatisfying, it will also be espousing a moral premise that is inherently false. So I hope you've got a great arc planned for him to see this through. Best of luck!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Character Clinic: Bree Hostetler

Today, I've got Sarah's character Bree on my couch. Besides being one busy 29-year-old, constantly adding things to an already over-committed calendar, she's also the brain-child of one of my fab critique partners, which only adds to my very fun job! Bree was adopted as a baby into a very supportive family, but when her bio mom contacted her, Bree ended up getting scammed out of a lot of money, making her feel tons of guilt and the need to repay her adoptive parents the money they lost. Bree loves helping others meet their inner potential, and she's helping her friend start a cheer program at church. She's gotten really close to this one girl in her class, and that girl wants to find her bio father.

Sarah wants to know: How would Bree interact with this girl? Would she encourage her or discourage her from finding her father?

Bree -

How fun to get to "meet" you in person after reading a little about you already. :) Now that I'm understanding better the context of your relationship with this young girl, I do have a few thoughts.

Typically, human behavior rarely sees beyond itself. Let me see if I can illustrate what I mean. If you were to go to a restaurant, order the Monte Cristo sandwich, enjoy it, but then later get ghastly sick and believe that you got food poisoning from it, you're probably not going to ever order it again--from that restaurant for sure (if you even step foot back inside it)--and maybe not even from a different restaurant. This is natural. We blacklist places and movies and events simply on one bad experience, or sometimes just from the word of our best friend or a bad internet review.We don't see beyond our emotional response to the logic that the restaurant got a bad shipment of cheese, which wasn't it's fault.

You had one such bad experience with your birth mother. She swindled you out of money. Running into this girl who is seeking out her birth father is going to immediately remind you of what happened with your birth mother...and you're going to likely advise her to "leave well enough alone" to avoid getting hurt like you did. You'll try to protect her, as you're already having motherly-like feelings for her because of the nature of your coach-cheerleader relationship you have with her. It's your job to look after her welfare to some degree, and you want to avoid at all costs putting the guilt you feel (from having involved your adopted family in the messed-up life of your bio mom) on her shoulders.

So my initial impression, based on my understanding of human behavior, would be that you would not advise her to seek out her dad. Depending on how desperate she is to find him, you might even regale her with your horror story to make sure she stays safe. "Don't let this happen to you!"-kind of talk. You won't see beyond your experience to rationalize that her interaction with her birth father could be completely different, based on several different variables.

So good luck, Bree. You're in for a great character arc, I can tell!

Oh, and Sarah--my favorite candy for the time being is Dove Milk Chocolate. Also partial to Airheads (in particular, the White Mystery flavor), which travel better....

Monday, August 15, 2011

Mistaken Identity Therapeutic Review and Giveaway!

K. Dawn Byrd's newest release,Mistaken Identity, is her first YA novel. I, for one, am glad that she's branched out into this genre, because I truly feel young adults will relate to the characters in her novel.

Here's a blurb about the book from the author's publisher's site:

Eden Morgan makes a list of six goals to accomplish in order to have the best summer ever. Getting a boyfriend, which is perhaps the most important goal, becomes complicated when she and her best friend, Lexi, fall for the same guy. Since Lexi is popular, gorgeous, and always gets her guy, Eden thinks she doesn't have a chance.

Channing Johnson is everything Eden's ever dreamed of and she can't believe he just moved in next door. When he starts showing interest in her, she's overjoyed...until she sees him out on a date with Lexi. He says Lexi talked him into it to repay her for tutoring him. Lexi says they're in love.

Eden doesn't know who to believe and is forced to choose between her best friend and the guy of her dreams. Nothing is as it seems and no matter who she chooses, someone will get hurt

Now truly, can there by anything more dramatic in a young girl's life than to feel second-best to her best friend and have that very same friend set eyes on the guy of her dreams? Due to my job, I spend a lot of time with hormonal youth, and everyone of them need to read about young Eden, a girl who is trying so hard to live for Christ in an environment that's not always conducive to that.

High school is full of angst, and I think that's why this plot drew me in. Thankfully, I never had a tiff with a best friend over a guy...but I knew of plenty friends who did. Kim writes the emotions with sincerity and honesty, and my hope would be that young adult readers would think twice about their own situations in light of the similar fictional ones they read about in this book.

That's the power of fiction. Kim introduces young adult readers (and older adults like me!) into some very tough topics...and she does this "softly," which is my therapeutic term for describing a non-invasive, non-in-your-face way of bringing something up for discussion. She addresses premarital sex, alcohol abuse, reckless behavior of youth, cheating, self-image/confidence--all jam-packed into a romantic story that really will make your heart melt.

Kim--I'm eager for more of Lexi. Hopefully there's a Book Two planned! Congrats on your very awesome YA!

Kim has agreed to give one commenter an Amazon gift card in the amount needed to purchase her book! All you have to do (if you haven't already) is click "Follow" on the right-hand column, since I like for my giveaways to benefit my readership, and then leave a comment to be entered to win.

Q4U: Did you ever have a tiff with a best friend over a romantic interest?

Sunday, August 14, 2011


The winner of Angie Breidenbach's Gems of Wisdom is Lisa Lickel! Congratulations, Lisa, and many thanks to all who entered.

Don't forget to pop over tomorrow as I'm hosting K. Dawn Byrd with a therapeutic review of her newest YA release, Mistaken Identity. See you then!

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Friday, August 12, 2011

Friday Free Association

The words are........


First commenter free associates with the above word. Second commenter takes the first commenter's word and free associates, and so on.

Remember -- FIRST thing that comes to mind. GO!!

For a chance to win Angie Breidenbach's latest release, Gems of Wisdom, click here!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Does Your Character Lack Emotional Intelligence?

Look at the following list of characteristics and see if your character suffers from any of them.

□ Poor impulse control
□ Inability to focus
□ Pessimistic
□ Disrespectful
□ General unhappiness with self
□ Aggressive
□ Fearful
□ Over-reactive
□ Lack of empathy
□ Mistrustful
□ Destructive
□ Floods with anxiety
□ Non-assertive
□ Falls apart under stress
□ Sulky
□ Seeks immediate gratification
□ Uncaring
□ Chronically sad or angry
□ Impolite, rude
□ Preoccupied with negativity
□ Passive
□ Emotionally inappropriate
□ Whiny
□ Overly sensitive to criticism

If so, he or she lacks emotional intelligence! Research has shown that a person's Intellectual Intelligence has little to do with how successful they are as much as their Emotional Intelligence (EQ). We all know people who are academically brilliant and yet are socially inept and unsuccessful. What they are missing is emotional intelligence!

So now that you know what's wrong with your character (HA! Wish it were that simple...) come back next Thursday as we discuss the four parts of emotional intelligence and how you can help bring your character through a better character arc by addressing one or more of the areas.

Let's look really quickly at the difference in men and women who have a high IQ versus men and women who have a high EQ.

(On the EQ graph, men are represented on the top, women on the bottom.)

Q4U: I will be going more in depth about this concept the next Thursday, but before then, what do you think emotional intelligence is? (And I will know if you look this up...) :-P

Don't forget: The giveaway is still going on for Angie Breidenbach's Gems of Wisdom (a great book for your writing shelf). Click here!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Character Clinic: William Donald Donnelson (AKA Knob)

I've got my first 10-year-old on the couch today. His meanie author, Joyce, didn't tell him he was having therapy! He's smart, shy, and made fun of at school. Not exactly popular. His brother, Paul, was a hemophiliac and died in a bike accident. Knob isn't a "bleeder," but his mom treats him as he was one and doesn't let him do things. Consequently, he's scared to do things, and his best friend tells him he's not really living because he's not taking risks. He just wants to be liked and invited to do things and he wants to stand up against his mother and be independent.

Joyce wants to know: I'd like to know if he sounds like a real boy or a stock character. Is he original enough? Does the book grab your attention?

Knob -

I know a little boy just like you! He didn't have a hemophiliac brother, but he does have a hypochondriac mother, and the result is just about the same. Do you know what a hypochondriac is? It's someone who always thinks that they are sick and over-exaggerates any little cut or bruise as something worse than it truly is.

Does that sound like your mother a little bit? She probably has some of the same characteristics because she's still grieving the loss of your brother Paul. Losing a child is a super difficult thing for a mother to go through, and since you're still young and she can oversee everything you do, she probably is overly protective simply because she's afraid that she'll lose you too.

I know it makes it difficult to hang out with friends and just have fun. That's what 10-year-olds want to do, and your author would portray you very real to life if you're getting really angry at her for not letting you do "normal" things other boys do. At 10, peers are just starting to become more important than parents, and you'll probably really struggle with your desire to please your mom and dad and your desire to just fit in and be like everyone else.

Your mother's problems have likely instilled the fear you have about doing things other kids do. It's pretty realistic to want to do those things but to also be scared to doing them. She's ingrained it in your head that something really bad might happen to you, and of course you don't want that to be the case. However, eventually peer pressure will probably cause you to give things a try--and you'll find that they are fun! This fun might override your fear sometimes, and then you'll likely have to deal with your mother's anger for having done something she thought was foolish and dangerous.

I find that you are in quite the predicament, and I'd be interested to know what your author plans on doing with you. I think you will ring true--and I'm sure there are other little boys/girls who would enjoy reading about you, because trust me, you aren't the only kid out there with an overprotective mother!

Hope you've enjoyed your time on the couch, even if you didn't know you were getting therapy. Come again any time.

To be entered to win Angie Breidenbach's Gems of Wisdom (a great book for your writing shelf), click here!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Character Clinic: Jason Reece

Today, I have Erica's character Jason on the couch. He's 43, divorced, with two sons, ages 21 and 17. He was taken from his bio mom when he was 8, and still carries this with him today in the form of panic attacks/nightmares. He was placed in a loving foster home and eventually adopted by a pastor and his wife. He married his high school sweetheart Nina, but he's not sure what went wrong or when he wasn't enough, but they divorced this year. He's afraid of being abandoned and alone and just wants peace in his life and for his ex-wife to love him and their children as much as he loves her.

Erica wants to know: I'm having a hard time figuring out what Jason's external goal is. I feel like there is something he's not really telling. Any ideas or should I trust him? Also, I wonder how I can really show the effects of his childhood on his adulthood. Is the information he gave enough to work with? Jason and I are both new at this. We appreciate your advice.

Jason -

It's no wonder that you're having panic attacks and nightmares with a vengeance at this time. When your wife walked out on you and your family, it was like your mother's abandonment all over again. Because even though you were taken from her, deep down, you know that she had checked out long before you were removed from her care. Nina checked out, and you're scared of those feelings.

Even more so, your younger son is about to graduate from high school. This will leave you with an empty nest, and for an emotional guy prone to crying, I imagine you aren't looking forward to this very much. It'll be one more abandonment (even if developmentally appropriate for your son to leave the house at 18), one more rejection.

You said your external goal was to have Nina return your love. Since I'm not sure what your author has cooked up for you (i.e., getting back with Nina or not), I still have to remind you that you can only be responsible for you alone. You won't be able to change Nina...only to change your interactions with her.

Now, she might be able to change once you change (in family systems theory, we like to look at this like a move, she has to countermove to adjust to your move. The whole system shifts because of one move, which YOU can make), but you can't count on it being a move in a direction you want. Life's just that way.

I'd venture to say that your external goal is more to have a complete family again. While this can carry with it some internal, emotional facets, it's a physical goal to strive for. Or perhaps it's to prevent other children from experiencing what you went through as a child, and your physical goal could be to work hard at your Children's Center to help families barely keeping it together. One family in particular might could tug at your heart....a family with an 8-year-old boy being raised by a single mom with a history of drug addiction. The reader would definitely see the effects of his own childhood in his work and emotional life then.

I hope you've enjoyed your brief stint on the couch today. If you want to go deeper, let me know! We could talk about your panic attacks and how they are triggered and how you might could come to a literary place of healing with them.

To be entered to win Angie Breidenbach's Gems of Wisdom (a great book for your writing shelf), click here!

Monday, August 8, 2011

Gems of Wisdom Therapeutic Review and Giveaway!

When Angela Breidenbach contacted me to review her book, I said sure. I was thinking that I'd help influence for her book just as I have countless other authors. It was only recently that I was able to read her book (thanks to my vacation!) and I'm SO glad that I agreed to review this book for her and get the word out!

My site might very well be the most perfect place to review her book, Gems of Wisdom for a Treasure-Filled Life. The subject matter of her book is overcoming the obstacles we face in life. These obstacles--which Angie called "Pirates"--can be inherited, formed in early childhood, or created later in life.

Each chapter focuses on various Pirates and the preferable alternative. Angie includes all sorts of poignant vignettes about her own experiences with her mother who had schizophrenia as well as short stories from others that bring home the points she makes.

But not only is Angie's book good for self-improvement and better living, it's great for writers! This is the part I kept thinking about as I read and cried through portions of her book. Our characters inevitably have the same issues we struggle with, and Angie covers so many of what could be literary character flaws that your characters will benefit from layered motivations that undergird every action they make. For those familiar with Dr. Stan Williams' The Moral Premise, you'll love this book, because Angie gives you a template for a moral premise in each chapter. (i.e., "Fear and short-term thinking lead to sadness and hesitancy, but courage leads to joyfulness and confidence.")

I want to give you a list of the Pirates Angie covers in her book to give you an idea of what you-and your characters--are missing out on if you don't read this.

Magical Thinking and Denial
Fear and Short-term Thinking
Rumination, Destructive Scripts, and Assumptions
Martyrdom, Anger, and Unforgiveness
Ignorance, Emotion, and Reactivity
Worry and Perfectionism
Unreasonable Expectations
Fatigue, Chaos, Busyness
Self-defeating Behaviors, Frustration, Helplessness, and Pessimism
Arguments, Confrontation, and Logic
Power and Control
Life Filters, Misconceptions

Think about all the books that have been written with characters who have these flaws to overcome by the end. I'm telling you--this book should be on your shelf not only to improve your life, but to improve your writing by getting behind what negatively drives people. I highly recommend it from my perspective of a therapist.

Angie has graciously agreed to give away a .pdf copy of this book to one lucky commenter below! Since I like my giveaways to benefit my readership, if you haven't already, please click the "Follow" button on the right and then leave a comment below, including your email address. Don't miss out on this great book!

Sunday, August 7, 2011


KRISTEN is the winner of Laura Frantz's new release, The Colonel's Lady! Kristen, I've sent you an email to get your snail mail address.

For those who didn't win, you can get Laura's book, The Frontiersman's Daughter, on Kindle for FREE! Click here!

Thanks for participating, everyone! Come back tomorrow....Angie Breidenbach is giving away a digital copy of her Gems of Wisdom!

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Weekend Funnies

For a chance to win Laura Frantz's latest release, The Colonel's Lady, click here! Drawing ends tomorrow!

Friday, August 5, 2011

Friday Free Association Chain

The words are........


First commenter free associates with the above word. Second commenter takes the first commenter's word and free associates, and so on.

Remember -- FIRST thing that comes to mind. GO!!

For a chance to win Laura Frantz's latest release, The Colonel's Lady, click here!