Character Building

I’m not great at character development. I find giving characters texture and depth and a good quirk or two, is tough, part of the hardest thing about writing. So at my writer’s group today, we were discussing developing characters, and for some reason I got an idea to keep a “character book,” which I plan to start.

Characters should have a couple of basic elements: 1) something that makes them stand out, whether it be a quirky feature or a strong aura or some great physical characteristic; 2) something they struggle with that, during the course of the book, they eventually defeat (or not defeat); 3) some trait that makes the reader care about what happens to them. Even the bad-guys need to have some quality that gets the reader invested in their outcome–whether that outcome is good or bad.

Anyway, I suck at creating those, because I don’t think out my characters before I write. I’m focused more on the story and where it’s going than developing my characters, and usually I have to go back after I’ve finished the first draft and really give those characters some strong qualities. So back to the “character book” idea. I’ve decided that, once a week, I’m going to make up a character and write it in my character book. I’m going to write as much a description as I can, about whatever pops into my head, even though I have no story to put that character in. I’m figuring (hoping) that either a story will eventually develop around those characters, or, at least, I’ll have jotted down some good quirks and strengths and weaknesses and descriptions that I can use elsewhere.

If nothing else, this will be a good exercise to keep the creative juices flowing and to work on my character development in general. Anybody else do anything similar to this? Let me know!

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Four Fiends Cover Art

Yesterday I downloaded Photoshop and started playing with it. I haven’t done much artistic work using web programs–mostly I’ve just manipulated images in Fireworks. But over this nice relaxing weekend, I started using Photoshop like a canvas, and came up with my new cover for Four Fiends. Here it is, front and back. Four Fiends should be published by Firedrake Books soon–I originally self-published it but the cover wasn’t quite as dynamic as this (at least, I think it’s dynamic :D )

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My Writing Spot

If you read Steven King’s book On Writing (and if you’re serious about writing, you should) you’ll know that a writer should have a spot to write.

That spot shouldn’t be on the couch with the TV blaring, or in the living room with kids running through it–it should be a spot where you can close the door, shut out everything else, and concentrate with no distractions. When he was younger, Steven King used his laundry room. Which means the spot doesn’t have to be fancy, it just has to be yours.

So today, after three years of creating stories on my laptop while sitting on the couch in front of the TV, I finally bit the bullet and created my own writing room. It’s in a super-small Japanese room (about five feet a cross and maybe 10 feet long) where we’ve stored all our boxes and books and things, but my husband was nice enough to clear out most of the junk. Then this Saturday, we went to an antique auction, and I bought a writing desk. It’s a cool desk too-it’s made from an old cabinet, and they cut out the middle to make a chair, so the desk drawers are now in the back of my chair. Pretty neat, huh?

So this post is my first “project” in my new hidey-hole, and I have to admit–shutting off the world so I can write is kinda nice. Now I’ve just got to get back into my getting up at 5:30 habit and start really using it.

My new writing room and writing desk--complete with a Shachihoko decorative roof tile we found at the flea market today.

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Nikki’s Book Reading Spot of the Week

This is in front of the Ruriji Temple in Yamaguchi Prefecture, Japan. Still a little cold out, but a nice spot to read! And I’m reading a LOT these days–blog reviews, submissions for Firedrake Books, LLC, and, of course, reviewing my own novels.

More new Reading Spots of the Week to follow!

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Book Giveaway!

Hey everyone!

Back home in the States now–it’s great to be back with family for Christmas.

I just looked on my facebook page today, and saw that I had over 1,000 likes! So I’m holding a book giveaway to celebrate. I’m giving away a signed copy of the new MUKADE ISLAND, just published by Firedrake Books, LLC, so if you’d like a chance for a free copy of this fun YA adventure, click below to join:

a Rafflecopter giveaway


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Another Successful NaNoWriMo

Last year, I participated in my first NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writer’s Month.) NaNoWriMo is where you commit to writing 50,000 words in one month. I wrote Mukade Island that year, which is now self-published, and about to be published by Firedrake Books, LLC.

Participating in NaNoWriMo taught me discipline, which amazingly stuck. After a month of used to waking up at 5, and  cranking out my 2,000 words before heading out to work, my body got so used to doing it, that I kept it up. Last year I wrote the first draft of six different novels. It’ll take me more time to edit them and publish them than it did to write the first drafts, and I owe most of my self-dedication to slogging it out during that first NaNoWriMo.

This year, I hit 50,000 words with my haunted golf course/comedic (I hope) manuscript: Links and Chains. I’m super happy with this one, although it still needs an ending and second editing, and all that. But I finished, and here’s my certificate to prove it:

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Word Soup, Trip to India, and other Fun Stuff

So check this link out: Word Soup by Patrick Frievald is a cool blog. He takes 500 words from a manuscript, draft, story, whatever, and boils it down to its essence. See what he did to my first draft of 9th Street Ninjas. I’ve learned a lot from this experience!

In other news, we are heading off to India in two days, if the typhoon coming up Japan’s coast doesn’t ground us. So I will try to write more and post pics on the travel blog when I get there!

Lastly, Firedrake Books, LLC will host its first small show–the Iwakuni Craft Fair mostly so I can get me feet wet in promotion. We won’t be selling books, but we will start promoting the business. Meanwhile, you can check out Firedrake Books at

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Handy-Dandy Tips

I’m starting a new little blurb here called “handy-dandy tips.” Just a short blurb for folks interested in writing and publishing.

Here’s my first handy-dandy tip:

If you’re thinking of self-publishing, and going through create space (or any other company) and they offer you a free ISBN, think twice before you take it. Here’s why:

The ISBN they give you for free is only good if you’re publishing through them. Therefore, you can’t use it when (if) you switch companies. While you can still get another ISBN for your book, the old ISBN is gonna be floating around there forever (you can’t cancel it.) Which means, if you’re republishing the book (say a publisher gave you a contract for it, or you just want to change companies) you can’t link that book to the previous one. You’re starting from scratch, even though it’s the same book, and all the reviews, etc. won’t be linked to that ISBN.

So buy your own ISBN. Yeah, it’s tempting to go with the freebie. That’s what I did, and now that I want to try another publishing source, I can’t transfer the ISBN. So I either have to solely stick with Create Space or have two ISBNs running around out there for the same book.

If you’re completely sure you’ll never print with another company but the one you’re with, go ahead, get the freebie. But you’re kind of screwing yourself for the future when you do it. Not that it’s the end of the world or anything, but because you don’t control that ISBN, you can’t transfer it. Just sayin’!

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9th Street Ninjas Preliminary Sketches are up!

It helps to have an artist in the family! My husband, the awesome artist Steve Bennett, has been working on the preliminary sketches for my upcoming novel: 9th Street Ninjas - Adventures in Burritoland. These are the concept drawings for the kids in the story.

The Boys - Kenny, Max and Indy


The Girls - Bella and Carleigh


Boy Ninjas in Action! Code Names: Rhino, Froggy and Owl


Girl Ninjas: Code Names: Cat and Newt

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10 Rules for Writing

RIP Elmore Leonard!

Elmore Leonard wrote some of the best guidelines for writing. Most good authors will tell you the same thing (Stephen King for instance.) And while we’re all guilty of breaking these rules, the trick is to break them as seldom as possible.

Ten Rules for Writing by Elmore Leonard

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