Posted by: reneewildes1 | February 2, 2017

The 6 Senses – TOUCH

The sense of touch is the most intimate of all, because you cannot do it at a distance.  It requires proactive movement by someone, reaching out to explore and embrace their world. 
CelebrationThis is not a lecture on sexual touching – for that I highly recommend Mary Buckham’s Sexual Tension class, using the 12 Steps to Intimacy.  This is just touching in general, textures, temperatures.
Think how babies explore their world – they pick up everything and try to put it in their mouths.  They’ve got the right idea.  Watch the kids on a field trip to a nature class,  examining feathers and pine cones and snake skin – sometimes shed, sometimes with the snake still inside.  The difference between an iguana and a salamander.  When my daughter was just over a year old we went to Maine.  Remember that rocky beach?  (We went in July, not in November.)  That baby sat there playing with the rocks for a good half-hour.  She’d pick up one, pass it back and forth, turning it over and over.  She didn’t go for color, she went with texture.  She put the smooth ones down right away – too boring.  She liked the rough, bumpy ones, and would trace the edges from every angle and giggle to herself.
ChandraThere have been studies about how beneficial pet ownership is.  Stroking something furry can lower blood pressure, especially (for me, at least) if it purrs.  That’s why pet therapy is such a success.  Read up on a dog named Skeezer, and what a difference she made in the lives of some REALLY messed-up kids.
Remember Linus?  Most kids have a favorite blanket they keep for years.  Whenever they get stressed-out, out comes the blanket.   When our son Joshua was born he got a fuzzy white blanket with balloons on it.  Once when my mom in Racine babysat for him, we picked him up but forgot the blanket.  He screamed and screamed.  Nothing worked.  Slow first-time parents that we were, we were halfway to Milwaukee before we thought “blanket”.  Turned around, drove all the way back to mom’s, woke her up, got the blanket.  He conked out right off.  Joshua is nine now and still has it.  It’s a nearly transparent white rag now, can’t even see the balloons anymore, but don’t even suggest throwing it away!
Okay, so kids have blankets, but don’t be too quick to laugh.  I’ll bet everyone here has a favorite sweater or old pair of jeans.  How many of us whine about how we can’t wait to “break in” that new pair of shoes?  How many of us have an expensive new outfit we never wear because it’s just not comfortable?
My Pretty New OfficeI love reading books.  I love their smell, the sound of the pages turning, the way they feel in my hand.  Joshua made these fantabulous little bowls in pottery class – l love every little dent and ripple.  Tami made a pink clay elephant I have on my desk at work.  Very stress-relieving.  (Who can be stressed out playing with a pink elephant?  When that colonel’s wife is hollering at me on the phone I just pick up Tami’s elephant and say “yes ma’am.”)   I have a soapstone candle-holder that’s my favorite.  I love the smooth, slippery feel.  I have a small carved wooden box on my computer desk where I keep my business cards.  I love tracing the carvings on it, the feel of every leaf edge and raised petal.  I love standing under a really hot shower, and big fluffy towels afterward.
Go on – be a kid again.  Explore your world with the sense of touch.  A fun game we play at home is blindfold someone, hand them something and see it they can guess what it is by touch alone.
Size shape weight texture form substance temperature
Soft hard smooth rough bumpy scratchy sharp dull solid liquid hot warm cold frozen
Living or not, natural or artificial
Think of struggling across blowing sand dunes, your feet sliding with every step.  Think of squelching through mud, it sucking at your shoes with every step.  Ever lose a shoe in mud, stepping out of it and hitting the cold wet with your bare foot?
Gardeners know what the feel of dirt is like.  Walk barefoot in the grass, on the beach.  Feel the bark of the tree, the shape of leaves, the texture of flower petals.  Even a bowl of mixed nuts – each is different – try the blindfold test on them.  Popcorn.  Chips.  Can you feel the difference between merino, cashmere and angora?  Feel the difference between Egyptian cotton sheets and the ones on sale at Walmart.
Now imagine your character doing the same thing.  The first time I played with a pet raccoon, I was surprised at how soft their paws were, how much like hands.  Give the characters preconceived notions and then surprise them.  I remember reading a Battlestar Galactica book when I was young (the old series, not the new – when Starbuck was a GUY).  They were riding unicorns.  Now do you think “smooth, satiny, white” when you think “unicorn”?  These were black, and their coats were harsh and wiry.  And I thought “Wow, that’s different!  COOL!”
Think of your skin.  Parts that see the sun all the time are rougher, drier, more weathered.  Parts that don’t see the sun so much (or ever) are smoother and paler.  Compare a rancher’s hands to an executive’s.  Think of the kind of man who gets a manicure.  The type of woman who doesn’t.
Moonwitched72webIn MOONWITCHED, Chapter 2:
 The goods-laden camels of the Theressan slavers’ caravan halted, grumbling, on the eastbound trade road. Their cloaked and veiled handlers, monsters masquerading as men, herded them into the golden tall-grass for tonight’s camp. A dozen captive women stumbled into the negligible shade of a stunted, twisted tarja tree.
A salty tear trickled down Mari’s sunburnt cheek as she collapsed, exhausted, on the hard-baked ground a bit apart from the others. She reached up to erase her show of weakness afore one of her amoral captors noticed. Her fingers came away streaked with gritty mud. She frowned at her broken nails. Powdery red dust clung to all, stained her tattered blue gown like dried blood. Mari wrinkled her nose in self-disgust at the combined stench of old sweat and old fear. Oh, for a bath. I smell worse than those foul-tempered camels.
How had it come to this? Bands of men, ordered to capture innocent, free women for sport? For sale? And the one who did the ordering—the shadowy head demon who’d taken control of this land. Emandu, who’d sent Kotar, the rightful boy-king, fleeing for his young life.
She fingered the cool stones and crystals encircling the copper band about her right wrist. Her captors had not yet taken it from her. The minor unseeing ward still held, made others dismiss it as inconsequential. A square green peridot set in iron for earth, a jagged quartz set in gold for fire, a round aquamarine set in a point-down triangle of silver for water and an arrowhead of mica set in tin for air. The heavy cuff bound, stored and focused whatever elemental energy she drew in ’til she had need of its magic and called it forth. But the need here far surpassed her earth-healing powers.
Fear wore on her, the sharpness dulled over the course of three days under the burning sun to a constant bone-deep ache. Nightmares of bloodshed and atrocities haunted her slumber. She licked her chapped lips. The brutes rationed their drinking water, but tears and sweat gave hope she wasn’t dehydrated yet.
Flannel shirts.  Satin sheets.  Granite countertops.  Steaming hot bubble baths.  Brushing your hair.  Typing on a keyboard.  Hugging a child.  Petting a cat.  Warming your hands under a horse’s mane.  Opportunities to mention, describe and revel in touch are all around you.  Put them on your pages.  Characters do not live in a bubble.  Have them embrace their world.  Clothing, their environment, animals, each other.  See what works for you.
Posted by: reneewildes1 | February 1, 2017

The 6 Senses – SMELL & TASTE

Smell and taste are so intertwined as to be virtually inseparable.  If you don’t believe me, plug your nose and eat a taco.  Or jambalaya.  Doesn’t taste anything like what you thought or remembered, does it?  Halfway through, unplug your nose and take another bite.  Wow, what a difference!  I had a roommate with a defective sense of smell; he overseasoned everything.  He could eat Habanero peppers straight.  His bloody marys were brown! 

Breathe through your nose.  Then breathe through your mouth.  What’s the difference?  Describe it.
Smell and taste are probably the most neglected senses in fiction.  They truly are sensual, they enrich your world-building by adding depth.  Like sound, they’re vital to transforming your reader from an observer to an active participant.   Don’t just list them like an inventory, tear them apart, put them on, roll around in them, revel in them.

Say you’re going down a tunnel.  Is it dry and dusty or damp and mildewy?  Is the dust laced with minerals that stings your nose and puts a tang under your tongue?  Copper’s good for that.  Iron, too – like in blood. 
You’re walking along a beach.  Is that body of water fresh or salt?  Don’t tell the reader which it is – have your character scent it on the breeze. 
You’re walking through a field.  Do you just smell the loamy scent of dark rich earth or is it mixed with manure or a chemical fertilizer?
horse-family-tamitoddWalk into a stable.  Inhale warm horse and wood, metal and leather, urine and ammonia and manure.  Straw bedding will smell different than peat moss or wood shavings.  Pine shavings smell different than cedar.  Smell the hay – grass hay has a crisper, sharper edge than the sweetness of a leafier plant like clover or alfalfa.  Try the oats – dry dusty smell but a sweet, almost nutty, taste.   Nuances.

Walk through the forest.  Has it just rained?  Is it about to?  Describe it.  A springtime forest differs from an autumn forest, a conifer forest from a deciduous forest, the taiga from a rainforest or jungle.  What can you smell?  Nuances.
Don’t just say “She smelled smoke.”  Wood smoke?  Pipe smoke?  Cigarette smoke?  Burning plastic or rubber?  Gasoline or oil?  Charcoal?  BIG difference.
Don’t just say “Candles were burning.”  Beeswax or soy or tallow?  If they’re scented, WHAT scent? 

A MomentPeople have a scent, as well.  Deodorant, fabric softener, soap and shampoo aside, each person is unique.  Just ask a bloodhound.  Scents can either attract or repel.  It’s a big component of “chemistry.”  Ever go out with someone, only to discover there was “no chemistry”, “no spark”?   Then you meet someone else, and WHAM!  And that scent can change.  Sweat can change.  Are they sweating from the sun or exertion, from fear or arousal?  How pheromones work isn’t important to the average writer, just be aware that they do.  Smell can be an incredible memory trigger.  A friend of mine finds English Leather incredibly sexy, because an old boyfriend used to wear it.  Old Spice has the opposite effect on me – my grandfather used to wear it.

Taste comes in four basics – salty, sour, sweet, and bitter.  Next time you eat, slow down and focus on your meal.  The warm yeasty smell of bread, that first bite of hot buttered crust.  Crumbled bleu cheese or feta cheese on the fresh spinach salad, maybe fresh ground pepper.  Taste the basil and oregano in the tomato sauce, the sage and onion in the stuffing.  Apple-smoked ham differs from maple-smoked from honey-cured.  You can mix flavors, too.  I make a wicked pork or chicken, simply simmered in chicken broth and orange juice.  (Lime juice is great, too.)  Savor a recipe that calls for
Madeira or Burgundy.  Specify the type of mushrooms in the stroganoff.  Don’t be afraid to have your character revel in rich egg custard or smooth buttery caramel.  Pay attention to flavors, smells, textures.  Crisp celery or mushy porridge and everything in-between.
Rievers Heart72smIn RIEVER’S HEART, Chapter 6:
Aryk carried his mug of yeast-scented ale to the corner table, where a round loaf of black bread and a generous pat of butter sat midtable. Verdeen followed, watching with approval as he sat in the corner looking outward.
“Two orders of shepherd’s pie, a bowl of pork stew and another ale and hot, spiced cider,” Aryk told the slender brunette server in a stained, low-cut bodice. She nodded and sashayed away, flounced black skirts swaying. He reached for the butter.
Verdeen slapped the back of his hand with the flat of her knife. “Wait.” She tore a chunk of bread from the loaf, slathered it with butter and took a bite. She chewed slowly, rolling it around in her mouth. No fire, no tingle, no hint of numbness or bitterness. She swallowed. “You want to find out the hard way the cook’s favorite seasoning is bitteralm, be my guest.”
Aryk growled. “Poison’s dishonorable—a coward’s tool.”
“Dead’s still dead. You die, Beloq wins. ’Tis one truth you must never lose sight of.”
Aryk’s gaze was level, measuring. “You’re a taster.”
She nodded. “Amongst other things. Never assume things are as they seem.”
“There’s more to you than meets the eye.”
“You’ve no idea.” A glint in his eye warned her he might enjoy finding out. She swallowed hard at the lingering shimmers of heat. “I’m to help keep you alive. This is part of it. You eat and drink naught afore me. Understand?”
“I drank two ales afore you.” His tone was one of humoring her.
“You were at the bar. You watched him pour them.” Aryk nodded. “Then you’re probably safe. ’Tis what’s prepared where you can’t see bears scrutiny.”
Valkyn joined them with an ale, his face flushed but composed. He caught her gaze and grinned. “You left afore it got interesting.”
Aryk frowned and growled at his second. The serving wench brought their drinks and food. Verdeen took a swig of Aryk’s ale, but her whole face screwed up at the bitter flavor as she swished and swallowed. “Pgah, wretched stuff.” She took a drink of cider to wash the taste of it away. “You sure you want to drink it?”
Valkyn laughed. “Puts hair on your chest.”
“The last thing a woman wants is a hairy chest.” Verdeen tested both pies, deemed them harmless and delicious. She slid Aryk’s across the table to him. “You’re right. ’Tis wonderful.” Tender shredded lamb in rich gravy, with potatoes, turnips, peas, carrots and celery, seasoned with onion and herbs, topped with mashed potatoes under a bubbling crown of melted cheese.
“Times like this I wish pigs could survive on Isadorikja,” Aryk mourned.
“They’d freeze.” Valkyn tore off a chunk of bread. “Our home’s not for the weak.”
Verdeen had the sinking feeling Valkyn didn’t refer just to pigs.
They finished their meals in silence. The server brought another round of drinks and a hot bubbling dish of sliced pears baked in honey and sweet spices. Verdeen swooned at the taste. ’Twas the most amazing thing she’d eaten in ages. She curled her arms around the bowl. “You can’t touch it. Have to save you from yourself and keep this dish all to myself.”
Aryk smacked her with his spoon. “Hand it over, greedy wench.” He slid his mug over to her. “Here. Put some more hair on your chest.”
Eew. How cruel to hand her ale after honeyed pears.
Now try it for yourself.  Your characters are sitting down to a meal.  A gourmet meal in a five-star restaurant or a trout over a campfire, doesn’t matter.  Make it come alive with smells, textures, flavors.  Revel in it.

The trick is layering.  What’s the first smell to hit them when they walk into a room or outside?  When you take a bite of something, what’s the first flavor?  Then what surfaces after a bit?  The trick of threes works well.  Read a wine bottle.  You have the initial bouquet, the prominent notes, and the finish.  Keep that in mind when you try your hand at this description.
Posted by: reneewildes1 | January 31, 2017

The 6 Senses – SOUND

Imagine how flat a world with no sound would be.
No laughter, no music, no dogs barking or bird songs or night crickets or frogs. Imagine lightning but no thunder. A volcano or earthquake or tidal wave without the roar. The white foam of surf pounding on the rocks without the crash. Rain getting things wet but no pitter-patter on the roof. Snow turning things white without the hiss.
How would you know the water was hot enough without the kettle screeching?
How would you know you approached the rattlesnake without the rattle to warn you?
Now imagine a story with no sound. Inconceivable! Yet this is one sense that is often overlooked or underworked.
Just for fun, go sit in your backyard, close your eyes, and LISTEN. Can you hear the wind rustling through the tree branches, birds chirping, cars driving by, the kid on the skateboard, the neighbor hammering on his latest wood-working project?
Come back inside. Close your eyes when you climb the stairs. Do the stairs creak? Open a cupboard door. Do the hinges squeak? Are you cursed with a washer or dryer that’s slightly unbalanced and dances around and thumps while it works? Do you have a faucet that constantly drip-drip-drips? Can you hear the hum of the refrigerator? The computer?
paladinImagine horseback riding. Listen to the clop of hooves, the ringing of metal shoes on stone or pavement, the creak of your leather saddle, the horse snorting and blowing, the buzzing of flies, the hiss of a swishing tail striking your legs. Imagine the crunch of an apple or a carrot.
Imagine your character walking through a fresh-air market or a fair or the zoo on a breezy day. What kinds or animals are there? Can you identify them by their calls alone? Imagine the awnings flapping in the breeze, the hawkers calling out their wares.
Listen to the voices. Smooth tenor or rich baritone or deep bass? Light and high-pitched or low and sultry? Nasal? Whiney? Twangy? Do they wheeze or drawl or hiss? Listen for regional dialect, cadence. Do the voices start out slow and speed up as they get more excited/agitated? Do they start out lower and get higher as they get more excited/agitated? Do they murmur, or whisper?
new carIs your cat purring or hissing? Is your dog whining or growling? Does the engine run smoothly or is it sputtering or missing? Does your character prefer classical or jazz or rock?
Sounds add depth, add richness, add realism. They put your reader RIGHT THERE. Sound comes in layers. Close your eyes. What do you hear first? What’s the loudest? Now “filter” that out. What do you hear next? What else?
I’m sitting on my bed with my laptop. I can hear the pop & sizzle of hamburger browning on the stove in the kitchen (my husband’s making tacos for supper). One of the cats is meowing and scratching at the closet door where we keep the cat food. My Chow Chow Abby just strolled past the bedroom door – the tags on her collar jingle, then clank against the metal water bowl as she starts lapping up a drink.  My wash machine just finished filling—there was hissing, then a thunk, now it’s agitating—I can tell by the tap dance on the floor. (I have one of THOSE machines.) The blower for the heat just kicked on.
Some Fiction Books That Feature SOUND Examples
In Mercedes Lackey’s “Arrows of the Queen” Talia explains how she used to room in the attic and knew how to dress for the day by listening for the sound of snow/hail/rain hitting the roof.
Terry Brooks’ “Sword of Shannara” is chock-full, for three specific examples stand out:
·         When they go through the “Corridor of Winds” and they’re nearly driven insane by the screams of the Banshees
·         When Allanon summons the shade of Bremen and all the other dead souls start shrieking as Bremen appears
·         When they have to get past the gnome clan gathering, and all the drums and chanting to the gods going on, when Hendel has the play decoy so everyone else can get through the pass
The final battle scene in Serenity (I have the novelization)—between the crash of the ship and the battle w/the Reavers – screams, growls, tearing metal and gunfire
In AC Crispin’s “Starbridge” there’s the static of the alien transmissions, the whoosh when the airlocks deploy, the dry snapping when someone’s arm breaks in a fight, the “you’re out of O2” klaxons
The world is FULL of sounds. Your books should be, too—even if the surrounding silence is so profound your characters can hear themselves breathing and their hearts beating…
You don’t need a lot.  For example, in HEDDA’S SWORD Chapter 4:

HeddasSword72LG            Maleta cursed her decision to flee the paladin at the Broken Blade.  What had come over her?  She had no logical reason to bolt and every reason to stay.  Where was her head?  She’d used up most of her supplies, but declined restocking at Nerthus’ Abbey.  She preferred traveling light and swift to being overburdened with gear.  But hunting had been poor, and now she paid for that decision. 
            She crouched down under the bare tangled branches of a winterberry bush and drew a knife.  The berries were long gone, but the inner bark was undisturbed.  Not very nutritious, but it was good for killing hunger pangs.  At least for a while.  She scraped away a couple of strips and surveyed the fog-shrouded gulch below her.
            Typical of the land itself, the veil was both blessing and curse.  While she could slide through unseen, so could her quarry.  The Wolf had chosen well, forsaking the safer high ground for the cover of the mists.  In the spring, hiding in such a low-lying area was an invitation to disaster, with the rains and flash-floods.  But late in the fall, with perpetual fog, it was perfect.
            Maleta chewed one of the strips of bark.  Her mouth puckered.  Grimacing at the bitter taste, she drew her sword and eased her way down the steep rocky embankment.  The constant dampness kept fallen leaves from crackling underfoot, but she couldn’t avoid sending small pebbles tumbling with every step
            North or south?  She crouched in the leaves and looked both ways.  North.  The slight breeze whispered at her back.  There’d be no way to scent a campfire or cooking food until she was on top of it, but there was nothing she could do about that.  She couldn’t depend on sight or scent.  Sound and sensing would have to do. 
            He was nearby, she could feel it.  She headed up the gulch.  Step.  Stop.  Scan.  Minutes felt like hours; with the cloud cover overhead and the mists swirling around her, there was no way to mark the passage of time.
            Something moved ahead.  The mist saved her as an arrow hissed past just off to the right.  She dropped to a crouch and froze, silent, watching but not seeing.  Her heart pounded, making her dizzy.  She strained to listen for the slightest sound, a clue to his whereabouts.
            A twig snapped somewhere in front of her.  Maleta glanced around.  There was no cover save the fog.  She gripped the pommel of her sword tighter and held her breath, listening for the angle of the person’s approach.
            A shadow coalesced out of the mists, taking on the proportions of a man in dark leathers.  Her ears caught the merest jingle of chain-mail.  She tensed.  When he was close enough for Maleta to judge his height by the thatch of gray hair atop his head, she charged.  She swung her sword low, hoping to take his legs out from under him.
            He must have heard her blade, because his own was there to block her crippling blow.  Lightning-fast, he spun and swung at her neck, showing no mercy at her gender.  She dropped, rolled and thrust up toward his belly.  He turned; his chain-mail deflected the blow aimed at the vulnerable spot just below his breastplate.  The black wolf on that breastplate mocked her.
            It was a strange fight, silent save for harsh breathing and the ring of clashing weapons, a desperate dance of death in the fog.  But his age caught up with him; his parries slowed a fraction.  Maleta began forcing him back toward his own camp.  He rushed and feigned, trying to get past her, but she held her ground.  Pressing, always forward, to the edge of his encampment.  The spitted carcass of a coney rested over a sliver of a fire crackling in the center.
            When the heel of his boot caught on a stray rock, his ankle turned.  He buckled afore her.  She knocked his blade aside and laid the burning edge of Hedda’s Sword against his throat.  The need to kill him choked her.
            She felt The Wolf shudder at the touch of the consecrated Goddess-metal, as all his sins rushed back to haunt him.  His eyes widened at her setting-sun breastplate shimmering in the firelight.  The knowledge of his imminent execution was in his murky green eyes as he looked up at her from the frozen ground, but his voice was matter-of-fact when he spoke.  “Fact I’m not dead yet means ye need answers, Hedda’s Own.”
            “You killed my parents!” Maleta burst out, glaring down at the scarred, silver-haired man.  She stopped, appalled at herself.  What had she just said?  That wasn’t Hedda’s script!
            Overhead, thunder rumbled.
Posted by: reneewildes1 | January 30, 2017

The 6 Senses – SIGHT

It was a dark and stormy night . . .
She had blonde hair and blue eyes.
He was big and hunky.
He walked toward her.
They rode horses to the beach.
They saw a bird.
What’s wrong with this picture????
What picture????
Exactly.  Whether hopelessly clichéd, hopelessly ho-hum, or hopelessly vague, these are NOT exactly the stuff of legends.  Snoopy aside, once you get past wondering what the heck they’re DOING on a beach on a dark and stormy night, you can’t see a thing.  Even if he was a Navy SEAL and she was a bioweapons expert with a Ph.D. in virology, and they were on that beach to intercept an illegal, deadly virus shipment that would destroy the world, with description like that, would you stick around to find out what happened?  Me neither.
Is it a rocky beach in Maine in November, with howling winds and snow blowing sideways (in which case it SUCKS to be them) or a black sand beach in Hawaii in the middle of a thunderstorm, with lightning and thunder, in May?
Are her eyes blue or are they cornflower blue or turquoise?  Round?  Deep-set?
Is her hair blonde or gold or platinum?  Long, short, straight, curly?  Blowing sideways so you can’t see her eyes?  (Remember the dark and stormy night!)
Does “big” mean tall and broad-shouldered, or really rotund?  Does “hunky” imply “tall dark and handsome” or a tawny Viking god?
Are they riding a horse or a red mare or a sorrel Arabian mare with a white star?
Is that a bird or an eagle or a juvenile bald eagle?
The whole trick to description is to be specific and use correct terminology.  Really, it’s just that simple.  Try to use more exact, less common words.  Why say green when you can say chartreuse?  Why say black when you can use obsidian or sable?
What do you SEE?   What does your POV character see when they look around?  What do they notice?  What do they know?
  An ornithologist or forest ranger might be able to identify a juvenile bald eagle, but a city girl on her first camping trip might just see a big brown bird and that would be okay.  She might be able to differentiate Marburg from Ebola, but she’s never seen an eagle before.  She might be able to spot an adult bald eagle and identify the white head and tail, unless she’s been living under a rock or never left the lab, but a still-brown juvenile?
 Would your Navy SEAL have a machine gun and a handgun or a Heckler & Koch MP5 and a Heckler & Koch P9S?  Would he have a knife or a dive knife or an Aqualung Master Dive Knife?  Where would it be strapped?  How does he hold it in a fight?
Description is entirely dependent on character POV. YOU are not observing & reporting, your CHARACTER is. So you have to use terminology that the CHARACTER would know/use, garnered from their own unique life experience & vocabulary. An academic Ph.D. would certainly speak differently from someone who never finished high school. A scientist would describe things differently than an artist. They see things through a different lens, they can only use words they’re comfortable/familiar with.
People are a product of their world—part genetics, part environment. We are born blank slates, with equal potential. Then we are molded into what we ultimately become. By people, circumstance, experience, training and choices. Our viewpoints, how we see the world around us, is colored by who and what we are. Children see the world differently than adults. A kindergarten teacher is going to view the world very differently than a soldier of fortune.
The best characters are as three-dimensional as real people, with the triviality stripped away. They are the best and the worst of the human race—sometimes in the same package. They have their own viewpoints, their own voice, that reflects who and what they are. They have strengths and weaknesses, beliefs and prejudices, assumptions and fears. For me characterization is interdependent on world-building, because the reader can only understand the characters if they can view the world around them.
Culture (Art/Music/Literature)
Education & Training
Society & Family Placement/Position
Rewards & Punishments
Your character is a product of her world. Once you’ve built it, once you’ve established her history parameters, you are locked in. You have to stay consistent. It’s unrelenting. You can never step out of character for a single second or you’ll lose your reader. The minute your health-nut stops at McDonald’s for a Big Mac or your nun blows her stack and cusses, you’re done for.
But it’s more subtle than that. Every profession has its own vocabulary—and way of looking at things. A spelunker (caver) knows the difference between a stalactite and a stalagmite. Military personnel using the word amphibious are not referring to frogs. Horse people referring to frogs are not talking about small amphibians that hop.
I write fantasy romance.  In my first novel, DUALITY, my hero, an empathic elven prince named Loren, and his white war mare Hani’ena, are riding through a swamp looking for Queen Moira, who managed to escape when the villains took over her castle.  Now think about how boring “Loren searched the swamp for Queen Moira” would be.  Here’s the scene in Chapter 9, in Reader’s Digest form:
            Hani`ena tossed her head.  Insects crawled into her ears, her eyes, her nostrils, but a full body shake would send Loren headfirst into the muck.  She snapped her tail.  Green slime clung to the long hairs and splattered against her sides.
            As Hani`ena approached the monolithic half-circle of fallen stones, Loren straightened with caution and reverence.  The sun was nearly gone, and this was the fourth ruin they’d explored in half as many days.
            The swamp made it impossible to track their quarry.  The stench of decaying plants and swamp gas hung in the air, the maddening whine of insects a constant distraction.  Reduced to prudent sensing, he saw no sign of Moira at the first two Circles.  He was impressed she had managed to elude him so far.
            To her credit, Hani`ena never put a foot wrong even though there was no way to see what the knee-deep pools of murky water hid.  As to her mood, however, her snapping tail and pinned-back ears were all the clues he needed.  Necessary the trip might be, but she was out of her element and not enjoying the experience.  All that soft, sucking wetness was not good for her hooves.  They needed dry country as soon as possible.
            Loren eyed the lengthening shadows and drew his sword.  Layers of moss hung like a shroud from a twisted cypress tree.  The stone circle loomed ahead in the deepening twilight as Hani`ena splashed forward.
Note the mixture of body motion and posture, descriptive words, and specificity.  Normally I absolutely abhor “description in a mirror” scenes to describe characters, I would rather have characters describe each other, but I broke my own rule in Chapter 8 of HEDDA’S SWORD, after Maleta is punished by her goddess Hedda for giving in to her human emotions.  I think it works.  See what you think:
            Cianan was the first through the door; he froze.  Worried cobalt eyes widened with palpable shock.  “Lord and Lady, what has She done to you?”
            Mother Kitta shoved him aside to take a look for herself.  “Hedda’s will be done,” she whispered.  Her voice trembled.
            Her face expressionless, Sister Reva just stared, horror in her eyes.
            “What’s wrong with you people?” Maleta asked, irritation giving way to trepidation.  She was so cold!  All she wanted to do was lie down under a dozen blankets afore a roaring fire.  She reached up with icy hands to feel her face, her hair.  “I’ve still but one head,” she reported.
            “There is a mirror out here in the hall.”  Cianan held the door open.  “You had best take a look at what your Goddess considers ‘fair punishment’.”  There was a harshness to his voice, a bitter twist to his mouth.
            Maleta stepped out into the well-lit hallway.  She stared with growing horror at the reflection in the mirror.  A stranger with her eyes stared back at her.  A pale stranger, pale as death, with colorless eyes and silver-frosted hair.  Her entire body appeared to shimmer with winter frost.  Fear gripped her; an icy fist closed around her heart until it stuttered, leaving her gasping.  Then the ice took hold, and the fear receded.  All she felt was a distant cold.  No warmth at all.  There was no fear after the shock, no sorrow.  As if the lock on her body extended to her heart, to her very soul.
Picture a scene from your own book as a movie with no sound, all you have are the images.  Whether an outdoor café in Paris, a camping trip in a mountain forest, on a beach at sunset, entering a creepy old (haunted?) house, a day at the Kentucky Derby, or a trip to the doctor’s office.  What’s the weather, time of year, lighting?  What kind of animal, vegetable, or mineral?  With or without people?  Remember to BE SPECIFIC.  This is entirely visual, people.
Posted by: reneewildes1 | January 27, 2017

New Review for RIEVER’S HEART

Rievers Heart72smCustomer Review

4.0 out of 5 stars An interesting mix of romance and politics, January 25, 2017
This review is from: Riever’s Heart: Guardians of Light, Book 5 (Kindle Edition)
Riever’s Heart was a step into a fantasy world which kept me happily entranced for several hours. Although I don’t usually read M/F romance, I thoroughly enjoyed this story. This is a tale of unexpected romance and political manoeuvring as Daq Aryk seeks to unite six fractious clans into a peaceful nation.
This is book 5 of a series, and as I haven’t read the previous books I was concerned I would be lost, but the world-building was comprehensive, and various races and clans of people were interesting and different enough that they didn’t blur into one. Riever’s Heart has a smooth and in-depth narrative, stepping up the intensity for the romance and battle scenes.
I cut my teeth on fantasy as a teenager and I feel the author has a deft hand as a fantasy writer. I enjoyed the story of the clans and their interactions with each other and the outside world as much as the burgeoning romance between Aryk and Verdeen. I’m not an M/F reader but the interaction between the couple and the secondary characters kept me interested.
Although I didn’t feel there was anything highly original in the plot, the twist was
Posted by: reneewildes1 | January 27, 2017

New Review for DUALITY

Cindy’s Reviews > Duality

11929346  *****

Cindy‘s review

Jan 25, 2017
it was amazing


A guilty pleasure that satisfyingly fed my imagination. Duality starts off by dragging you into a bloody coup. Dara is a mystery, and is loyal to her people. She’s also a fighter–fearing no one. She will protect and heal all who cross her path, even a stranger.

Her gifts lead to those who need her and that is how she finds Loren. A visitor to her world who had come to help the king, becoming gravely injured.

The chemistry between Dara and Loren was instant. I enjoyed journeying with them as they fought the enemy while their romance bloomed.

The author has painted a world of adventure and fantasy that immediately pulls you in, and doesn’t let go. In fact, I stayed up to 3 in the morning finishing it.

I am definitely a fan!
Posted by: reneewildes1 | January 22, 2017

PIROSKA: Daughters of the Guardians 3

THE PROPHECY (from Riever’s Heart):

Rievers Heart72smAryk stumbled back from Tzigana’s bed. Horror chilled his very bones. His recurring nightmare had come to pass. Joro lay dead in a pool of his own blood. A raven-haired woman with the mark of the Hand stood over him, blood dripping from the sword in her hand. His sword. His blood. The very sword Aryk now carried, which Joro stood to inherit. The sword which would one day lead Joro to his death, at her hand—this tiny babe lying in her mother’s arms.
The future he’d determined to thwart by seeing to it Joro never picked up a sword. The wars must cease afore Joro turned six. That future started here. Now. With the birth of her.
“Piroska.” He all but hissed the name. The inflection gave it the weight of a curse.
Verdeen shot him a startled glance. Wolf’s face darkened as the queen’s arms tightened around her daughter, enough to draw a mewled protest. “What’s wrong?” Verdeen grabbed Aryk’s arm. “You look like you’ve seen a ghost.”
“Nay.” Valkyn’s voice shook. “A witch.”
“Aye,” Tzigana retorted. “The most powerful eya in ten generations.”
“Every night I prayed this day to never come.” Aryk clenched his fists. “That she’d never be born.”
Wolf’s entire body tensed as Tzigana hissed, “Take it back, you riever bastard.”
“I’ll not. She kills my son,” Aryk raged. “I’ve seen it, night after night. Him lying gutted at her feet like a fish, killed by his own sword. The Hand of Destiny mocks me with seeing her living face—one brown eye, one green eye and the red Hand that wields my son’s doom. All I seek to prevent—negated by your witch-daughter’s birth. Your joy heralds my greatest sorrow. I can’t share in it.”

PIROSKA – Heroine…or Villainess?

piroska: Shamaran princess

one brown eye and one green eye—a red birthmark in the shape of a hand on her right cheekbone

the most powerful eye (witch) in ten generations, with the power to summon lightning

destined to kill Joro with his own sword???


daughter of Shamaru queen Tzigana and Shamari king Berend/”Wolf”

Piroska's mother - Queen Tzigana from HEDDA'S SWORD & RIEVER'S HEART (Anna from Van Helsing - the gorgeous Kate Beckinsale): Piroska's father - Von Berend, "Wolf" from HEDDA'S SWORD & RIEVER'S HEART (Rutger Hauer from Ladyhawke):


She comes from the blending of two different worlds –

Shamaru woman's costume: the travelling gypsy native Shamaru

Shamaru horses & wagon:

& the more recent immigrant Shamari, stationary builders of stoneRavenscroft Castle in Shamar:

Piroska was born in the cliffside castle of Ravenscroft, the ancestral home of Von Berend, the Wolf

Ever has she been forbidden to visit Isadorykja, the Isle of Ice, the village of Svaaldur at the foot of Widowmaker Mountain – by decree of Daq Aryk, the Isadorykjan king

son of Daq Aryk and the Isadorykjan woman Dagmar,

Joro's father - Aryk from RIEVER'S HEART (Stelios from 300 - played by Michael Fassbender): Dagmar - Joro's Mother:


Joro is a proud, able warrior to rival his legendary father

Trained as a daq, his father’s heir, he chafes at the restrictions place on him, to never set foot in the land of Shamar, by the mutual decree of Daq Aryk and Von Berend (two men bent of thwarting the prophecy by never having Piroska & Joro meet)


Bur the Destiny Hand can’t be thwarted…or circumvented…

Enter the seeress Jana (Tzigana’s cousin):

“The sword you carry—the sword of a daq, of a king,” Jana continued. “He will one day carry it, wield it. The kingship as well as the sword.”

“But she kills him.” Aryk glared down at her.

She rolled her eyes and glared back, her exasperated expression clearly relaying she thought him a simpleton. “A witch has no need of a sword to do her slaying. Not an eya with the power to summon lightning. Aye, you saw the warrior Joro die. But did the man die with the warrior? When is a sword more than a sword? When is a man more than a warrior?”

Let the chess match begin!

Posted by: reneewildes1 | January 22, 2017

ELYRIA: Daughters of the Guardians 2

ELYRIA - daughter of Dara & Loren  1/2 Elven, 1/4 Human, 1/4 Dragon (molly c quinn 2014): ELYRIA, half-elven/quarter-human/quarter-dragon princess of Cymry (capital city Poshnari-Unai)

worships the Lady of Light

shares her mother’s abhorrence of demons

yearns to do something productive with her life besides be a pampered princess of the realm


daughter of Queen Dara (half-human/half-dragon fire mage & healer) &                           elven King Loren (empath, former Lady’s Champion & Right Hand) from                    DUALITY (Guardians of Light Book 1)

Elyria's mom - Queen Dara (Dinah Meyer in Dragonheart - LOVE that movie!):

Elyria's dad - King Loren (Haldir from LOTR):





guarded by & bonded to MYSTI, a fey mist tiger from the Shadowlands AND Aurelian (elven shadow ranger) & his war mare Lanakea

Mysti, Elyria's mist tiger companion:

Aurelian (Verdeen's best friend in Riever's Heart) - Elyria's bodyguard (elven shadow ranger): Aurelian's war mare, Lanakea:







When a messenger arrives from the distant shores of Goba-Din Ashelu, on the far side of the Shadowlands, proposing an alliance and cultural exchange, Elyria proposes to go as her parents’ ambassador. They gate to the port of Ban-Khala, where they board the Banshee’s Fury, captained by the charismatic Stepak, bound for the distant, exotic city of Bur-Ganan.

Stepek's ship, Banshee's Fury: Stepek - djinn prince (aidan turner Kili):


djinn capitol city of Bur-Ganan:





But someone has other plans for Elyria. When the Banshee’s Fury is attacked, Aurelian & Mysti are gravely wounded. Stepak spirits Elyria to safety with the help of the giant Roc, Nur.

giant roc - djinn battle mount (golden eagle) large enough to carry people: Um, yeah - dunno where (yet), but yeah...:

Elyria and Stepak have to find out who wants the alliance to fail. News of Elyria’s death would start a war between elf and djinn. When Elyria discovers her simple sea-captain is in fact the disinherited grandson of the Djinn King Salah. Salah’s daughter Ariana was taken by an incubus demon – Stepak is half djinn…and half demon.

Won’t Queen Dara welcome HIM as a son-in-law – provided Elyria & Stepak can survive long enough to return to Cymry?


Posted by: reneewildes1 | January 21, 2017

BRAECA: Daughters of the Guardians 1

Story Notes Development:

BRAECA, half-human/half-selkie

warrior/scout & weather-witch

selkie allure manifests through singing

affinity for crows

hates/fears the sea (& dragons)


daughter of Finora (selkie princess) & Trystan (were Wolf warrior of Badger clan)

from LYCAN TIDES (Guardians of Light, Book 3)

Finora in LYCAN TIDES - Braeca's Mom  (I absolutely adored Karina Lombard in KULL The Conqueror): Trystan from LYCAN TIDES -  Braeca's Stepfather (Mads Mikkelsen's Tristan in King Arthur):







older sister of Ioain (half-human/half-selkie) – shamanic archaeologist, obsessed with studying the past

IOAIN - Braeca's younger brother (ioan gruffudd):

When Ioain locates ancient cave paintings, he insists on going to study them. Braeca reluctantly accompanies him to stand guard (and make sure he eats & sleeps)Prehistoric cave painting- 35,000 years ago.  -Animals were important for very basic reasons in this time period. They were used for food, clothes, tools, and most interactions between them and humans remained primal.  -Depicted as flat, basic earth tones, usually through daily life scenes, such as the hunters above.:







Meanwhile, in a land far/far away, (the Negasa mountain range of Theressa) an earthquake destroys the home caverns of the warlike Shani (dark elves, AKA drow). They have to find a new home territory, and migrate into the caves of the Dragon’s Back Mountains (border of Arcadia & Shamar). FLYN is sent to scout ahead with the 5 warriors of his “Hand” – and they come across the cave where Ioain & Braeca are working.

FLYN: (I ❤ this picture!)

FLYN of the White River Shani (dark elf/drow)     Rhys (prince) & warrior, armed with a knife made from a basilisk’s tear, a blade which steals the life forces of slain enemies to heal himself (designed by his necromancer/shaman brother Emek)

second-born son of Abba All-Father & captive high elf female named Dumia (sister to Hilorian)

the basilisk-tear knives can be focused in a ritual to summon & reanimate their victims and force them to fight on the side of the Shani, in the name of Akeru, the God of Death. Lich/zombies, an abomination to the Lady of Light…

Basilisk mythology describes this "king of serpents" as a reptilian creature with sometimes rooster-like qualities who is famous for its ability to kill with a single glance.  Like its bird-lizard cousin, the Cockatrice, basilisks are said to be born from a union of serpents and roosters.:







Unbeknownst to Abba, Dumia has been secretly influencing Flyn to work for benefit of all the Shani people, not just his own power. He is wary of the topsiders, but decides to find out more about them before committing to heading an invasion force…

Can Braeca finish what Dumia started, and turn this Bad Boy to the Light? Will Flyn turn traitor against his father and help the humans prepare for the coming apocalypse?


Posted by: reneewildes1 | January 20, 2017

New Beginnings, New Series

With all the recent upheavals in my little corner of the publishing world, namely the almost-demise & drastic downsizing of Samhain Publishing, I’ve struggled to keep my identity & writing focus. I know I’m not alone. A lot of my writing friends have gone Indie with varying rates of success, since the market is GLUTTED. Everyone has a book out these days, and it’s hard to find the gold in all the dross. Amazon has gotten way too big for its britches, and isn’t always the easiest waters to navigate. Not everyone can afford to go Indie, though. I’m one of them, which is why I left my books up at Samhain when so many others were pulling the books whose contracts had expired. The Guardians of Light are Samhain books. Period. An interlocking series of 7 titles:


But where to go from here? I did a brief sojourn into the world of writing Science Fiction Romance…UGH! The less said about THAT the better! (LOL) I adore watching science fiction TV shows & movies, I love reading sci fi. Can’t write it to save my soul, though. Turns out trite. Flatter than flat. I’ve been hanging out with Joseph Campbell & Mercedes Lackey for too long to turn my back on my strong suit: Fantasy Romance.

But there are 7 books in the Guardians of Light series already. Enough. What to do next? Well, what happens when hot couples get their happily-ever-afters and time passes? The Next Generation, so to speak. So, I’ve been solidifying the Daughters of the Guardians trilogy idea into 3 different book ideas:

Braeca (daughter of Finora & Bran – Lycan Tides)

Piroska (daughter of Tzigana & Berend – born in Riever’s Heart) – destined to join with Joro (Dagmar & Aryk’s son from Riever’s Heart – Birgit’s younger half-brother)

Elyria (daughter of Dara & Loren from Duality) – featured in Riever’s Heart & God of Fyre Mountain

but maybe add a couple of others to make it an official series:

Birgit (daughter of Erlynda & Aryk, niece of Valkyn – Riever’s Heart) and

Jana (Tzigana’s younger cousin – featured in Hedda’s Sword & Riever’s Heart)

Siobhan (Braeca’s younger half sister, daughter of Finora & Trystan)


But what about the boys? If I were to do a Sons of the Guardians, who would I have to work with?

 Ioain (Braeca’s younger brother)

Alvar (son of Moira & Hengist – Dara’s half-brother)

Antal (Piroska’s twin brother)

Valkyn’s sons – Einar,  Helje, Broder, & Gjord (mentioned in Moonwitched)

Mari’s & Dax’s son (conceived in God of Fyre Mountain), named Chonan

Working new stories in the old, familiar world of the Guardians – with one or two travel-abroad variations just to keep things interesting…

Are there any characters YOU want to see featured/more of???

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