Toughest Scene in the Book

If you’ve read my other blogs on the subject, you know that my camping trip didn’t help out my word count at all. Hell, each day of towing literally killed it. But this wasn’t my only challenge. In fact, it wasn’t even my strongest one. I know you’re all dying from anticipation. Read ahead, but keep in mind that I love a good challenge.

So my wife’s friend from college donated into the charity for the story. She did so to the point of wanting the character to live at the end. Wounded was okay, but she had to live. She also sent me a character description. The name is taken from hers, but is not her name. Challenge came when I read the description. A nomadic, Nordic woman who was a unicorn herder (but only if someone paid to have rabid unicorns be the monsters). If not a unicorn herder, then some other form of herder.

Let’s address them one at a time, and then I’ll reveal the final character after giving you the bits.


Seriously, we have migratory workers in this country, but the closest thing we have to nomads are retired people who go from place to place in their RVs taking odd jobs when they need a little extra cash. And yes, I do have a pair of friends who do this. (Hi Leslie and Bill!) So I had to address having a nomad in present day Wisconsin. Present day Wisconsin with monsters, but still.

The fix? Her family were all nomadic Norwegians with her parents being the first to travel to America. She grew up going from ranch to ranch helping others raise animals until her father passed away. Once all of her family was gone she purchased a ranch of her own to raise horses. In other words, the first in a family of nomads to settle down. The ranch is just north of Madison.

Unicorn Herder

So nobody asked for rabid unicorns. Apparently nobody enjoyed that scene from Cabin in the Woods like I did. (And thank you for not making me write killer unicorns.) So that left out her being a unicorn herder. It also freed me from having to explain why there was a unicorn farm north of Madison, Wisconsin.

The fix, as you can read above, was to make her a horse breeder. Most of the horses she has aren’t “champions” but each called out to her in some way. While she’s settled down, she is still using that nomadic gut instinct in her decisions.

Why is she in the book?

Yeah, so I have a Nordic nomad who settled down in the area. She’s breeding horses. But what does this have to do with the spreading of Bath Salt Zombies in the state? I could stage an attack there, but she has to live. And let’s face it, if one of them bites you it’s just as fatal as the Romero zombies. Faster acting, too.

My solution was to use the character. The herd of horses she’s breeding are special. In times of need they are imbued with a bit of the power of the lost Norse gods. They fly. They also bond with heroes. In the case of this character, she becomes a Chooser of the Dead. Sort of like a Valkyrie, but instead of choosing fallen heroes for Valhalla, she simply chooses who the dead are. She will also have the ability to put the dead to ground again. This should minimize the chance of me getting her mauled and infected. It also helps me to deal with a bit of a corner I wrote myself into. (To explain it would mean spoiling parts of the story.)

So what’s the problem?

I know, it sounds pretty solid, right? Sounds like I know what I’m doing? The problem is that I didn’t have an opening or scene in mind to introduce this character other than *POOF* “I’m here!” (For the record, I’m not a fan of the *POOF* Gambit.)

The real issue was that this scene was dragging down my speed. I wasn’t really into it and I wasn’t getting a voice. And, as she was a sponsored character, I couldn’t just write her out of the story. I stuttered three starts at the scene. This morning was my last attempt.

What pulled me through it.

The playlist. You know, Dukes playlist from yesterday? I wasn’t picturing her as a country western fan specifically, but the themes of the songs gave me some insight to what she was thinking. And although she has no real vocal religion in the scene, “I Can’t Pray” gave me her voice, a catalyst and a motivation. It also started to make me feel bad for my character. And when you write in public, its best not to get yourself choked up over your writing.

Trust me, I’m not a fan of the wonderful white fitted jackets that help you give yourself a big hug.


For those keeping score, the scene is written and the character will have an outcome integral to the story. She is a settled down nomad with a penchant for training horses – a Horse Whisperer if you will. As she enters the story, the land and power of the Norse pantheon will be reaching out to her, binding her to a horse and naming her the Chooser of the Dead. She will ride her flying horse into battle against the undead. Now I can’t fully promise she lives, which may give you a bit of stress as you read about her in the book. Although the lady did pay for her to live, so in all purposes, consider her to be like a third protagonist that is only in a small section of the book.

This is one of a couple sponsored bits that took a larger role in the big picture than I initially anticipated, but I am really happy with the outcome.

Scoresheet for Dukes Playlist

  • I Can’t Pray – backdrop for protagonist, parallel for valkyrie side character, came damn close to getting me an observation appointment at the local hospital, made my wife cry at least once
  • A Man Comes Around – inspired a duel of wits between Big Bad™ and Dukes, fleshed out my valkyrie, gave me a backdrop for the danger in the story
  • This Cowboy’s Hat – gave me an accessory to focus on with Dukes, gave me an aspect to his guitar case I hadn’t planned on, had a single line that altered the character’s destiny (not necessarily in this book)
  • A Country Boy Can Survive – gave a bit of country personality to Dukes tenacity in the story
  • You’ve Got To Stand For Something – was the starting theme of my story, but went to really loosely stringing it all together now
  • The Lord Knew Me First – give a parallel between Dukes and the detective, added a bit of snark to the character to temper the country charm
  • Down in Flames – this will totally be the theme song to the final act of the story, I can totally see it
  • number of times this playlist saved my ass: too many to count

Name a Wight

EDIT: Extended! Both offers below are extended until I get back from camping the end of this week. Naming opportunities will still be done, but the closer I get to the end the less my ability to enter those. Naming the wight will be a simple search and replace on the placeholder name. 😉

This is the first real sponsorship challenge I am offering. For all I know, it could be my last. The inspiration for this one came from out of the blue – much like the inspiration for Duke himself. Only this time it came from writing.

If you’re following me on Twitter you may have heard me mention at some point that I have used zombies as the foot soldiers of the Big Bad™ in my story. Specifically zombies born from the use of bath salts. I’m not talking straight up drugs, although that is part of it, but also synthetic drugs altered by dark magic to create the necrotic disease that brings the victims back from the dead. Much like with the very real world Miami bath salts incident, these walkers tend to shred off their clothes. The fever cooks them and they remained flushed for the first bit of time after turning. It also allows them to move faster and with more coordination until their muscles start to rot.

Enter the trio of zombies to the University Book Store on State Street. Never mind their reason for being there. They just  are. And so are my two heroes. Except only two of the dead guys are pouring with sweat and stripped down to only their humility and humidity. The other guy is taller, more solid, cold to the touch, and decked out all in black. This includes a black leather duster. In Wisconsin. During the Summer.

I had no idea what he was, but he was there to lead the strike on the book store. He was there for the intelligence as he wasn’t a brainless zombie. I am playing with calling him a wight, but that will likely be decided in revisions. He is dead, still walking, intelligent and is not vulnerable to the hunger. What I didn’t do in the scene I wrote him in to was name him. All of his companions were fever zombies so there was no dialog like, “What to go zombie pal.” Or “Hey, these are some pretty good cheesy fries.”

My detective called him Scooter. That may morph to Skippy though. I can’t continue forward with that as a name, but I need to name him something. He’s the right hand of the Big Bad™ and will come into play in at least one more scene. Probably more. That’s where you all come in.

Monday the 18th I leave for Door County camping for the entire week. So, the first person to donate in for the option of naming a character and leaves it in the comments will have the ability to help me name the right hand of the villain. I’ll even include a special thanks in the acknowledgments. Also, for anyone who donates in at least $10 to the pledge page by Sunday night (say 10pm CT) can send me their address and I will ship them a care package. It will be food related and linked to one of the characters in the stories. Anyone earning the care package, let me know about any food allergies.

Sunday night or Monday morning I will post who is naming the character with me and list people who will be sent care packages. Hopefully I will have something to report.

And speaking of reports… (You see what I did there?) I am currently at 21306 for the month. I am stopping at the coffee shop for a second bout of writing, so that will go up. Basically with a near full day of Legend of the Five Rings on Saturday I wanted to build up a cushion.

Who has two thumbs and is going to be writing Saturday morning before the tournament? This guy! Zombie Joe!

In Review:

  • First person to donate under the “Name a Character” option will get to help me name the Wight.
  • Anyone donating at least $10 worth this weekend will get a care package from me in the mail.
  • The link to the pledge page is on the right. The stamp that says “Sponsored Camper.”

Writing Accountability

I have done a number of personal and public challenges to offer myself some form of accountability in my writing. No matter how much this is a smoke and mirrors trick on myself, it works for me. Change Write Now pushed me into losing weight and getting back into the swing of writing every morning – no matter how hard it is to get out of bed. Writing Streaks put me into the mode of motivating other people to keep ahead of my word count as well as getting me into the writing habit with at least one local person. Okay, so I may be addicted to community like Edward Norton’s character in Fight Club.

This past couple weeks I’ve also been feeling a fund-raising pull. Had I signed on earlier and been able to set up a pledge page, I would have been doing the Walk a Mile event. Now I was looking towards cancer-related charities, but locally my family-favored one The Badger Childhood Cancer Network has a golf outing coming up being sponsored by my Italian Heritage Club. Also, I don’t have the resources I used to for putting together a gaming weekend event like I did several years ago. There’s also the foundation started through the Rockstar Ronan story I started following due to social networking. (Side note to wear purple on May 12th. Memory and all.) And while these are all worth the time and any effort I can put through, I have settled on something a little more directly involved with my life for my personal effort this month.

Love it or hate it, NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) has not only kickstarted me back into writing, but has gotten me more involved with the local writing community. Local authors and support groups have been more an effort of writing conferences and social networking, but this group of aspiring authors are really my people. They’re in the same boat I am. In a strange way, I look forward to the whirlwind that is November every year. Hell, I even shamed Dale into participating this year even though she had no intention of doing it. I meant it when I told her the write-ins wouldn’t be the same without her. To answer the question, this has everything to do with the fundraising effort I am going to take on this year.

Donations to the Office of Letters and Light (the folks than run the NaNoWriMo site) go to funding the event every year and the Young Writers Program they run. I see it the way some people see Twilight, which is to say that even if you hate the idea of NaNoWriMo, it is getting people – young people especially – writing. I can’t see this as being a bad thing. To that effect, I am going to be participating in Camp NaNoWriMo, their June event that is sort of a summer camp of writing. The goal is the same, a 50k story in 30 days. In this instance though, you can set up a pledge page. Once I have the page set up and ready to take donations, I’m thinking I may do some kickstarter type stuff for this. Such as first person to pledge X amount to the fund gets to name a character, pick a genre (from within a list), pick a villain, etc.

According to the web site, the top fundraiser is being given a Neo (battery operated portable writing devise). It seems to me that this will not take the place of my iPad and wireless keyboard, so in the event that I win it with donations, I think I’ll run a writing contest for teens. All entrants will get posted and the winning story will get the Neo. Relatively sure I’ll handle this one locally. Not 10o% on that, and honestly not sure I need to worry about it.

Thoughts? Suggestions? Any categories of challenging writing inserts/sparks you’d like to seed out there for your donations? Post now or until the end of May hold your peace.