While I am busy with life and creating content for you all, I hope that you will take the time to check out my novel, “The Soldier’s Whisper” on Kindle. You may download a free sample to whet your appetite here: Kindle “The Soldier’s Whisper”.

Thank you for your interest in my book and writings. Hope you find it a great read. Do come back soon for new posts here!

-Nicole C.



Writer’s Brain: Part 5-Time

I definitely could’ve just left the picture and called it a post. I started to write this last Monday. Got as far as putting the picture in and a few sentences; but then, something happened.

I hit the proverbial block.

So, I put it away for Tuesday when maybe my muse would be more cooperative. (It’s funny that way. Funny strange, not funny ha-ha.) The schedule I created before I started blogging has me writing every day for an hour on my many projects (including the blog) so as not to frustrate my muse, but still be constantly writing. It follows the concept that so long as you are writing, you are building your writing threshold, so to speak. You are able to write even when your muse isn’t cooperating.

To quote the late comedian, John Pinette, “Nay nay.”

My muse would much rather sit around twiddling her thumbs. (You can imagine the eye-roll I gave.) Sometimes, no matter how much I plead with her, she refuses to give me any ideas…while I’m actually ready to write. Don’t we all feel this at some point?

Anyways, this isn’t about muses. This post is about time. How we use it subsequently affects our muse, writing, and general feelings toward writing.

As mentioned before, I created a schedule in the hopes of sticking to it and cranking out lots of material. While I have become better, knowing I have the schedule, my time usage hasn’t changed all too much. I still rely on my muse to dictate when I write. Surely I’m not the only one afflicted with this habit. How can this habit be broken?

Firstly, tell your muse to shut up. Secondly, in all seriousness, rework your schedule to fit your writing habits. Find those times when you notice yourself getting inspired versus frustrated with writing. Thirdly, always carry a notebook or something where you can write down your ideas. Be them snippets or full pages, you better be ready to capture them when they strike. My muse once hit me while at dinner and I had to resort to using a doily as a notepad. (I still have it somewhere in one of my many notebooks. Be sure to always have a pen, too, in case you face a similar situation.)

Finally, don’t attempt to always be hammering out something all day, every day. This is what leads to burn out. Burn out can lead to hating writing. Remember being in school and studying something over and over? Same principle. (Org. Chemistry was the bane of my existence.) Let your brain have time to play even if it’s one day a week. Go binge-watch that show you’ve been meaning to get to. Work on a hands-on project to get your hands and brain doing something different.

When you use your time wisely, you can keep that drive to write alive. Your muse, writing, and emotions towards writing will thank you for taking some time to let them think.

Leave a comment below about your favorite way to schedule your writing time!

~Check back next week for Writer’s Brain: Part 6-Places~

Writer’s Brain: Part 4-Music for Writing

Imagine your favorite movie scene. For me, that’s difficult, but I’ll choose a chase scene from “The Fifth Element”. Leeloo has just been recreated and escaped the facility to land in Korben Dallas’ taxi cab. The cops are soon on their tail, chasing them through the city of New York.

For those who’ve seen the movie, we can probably hear the intense, Arabic sounds which, surprisingly, didn’t make it to the soundtrack. (The song is Alech Taadi by Cheb Khaled, if you’re curious.) We feel that emotion of the chase or get the sense of that period’s NY just from listening to the music. So, now imagine if the scene didn’t have that song. Say the composer and director left music out of it or chose something else. It’d be difficult to imagine the scene in the right context if they just put “Dragula” by Rob Zombie in there.

When I write, I like to listen to music that will evoke the right emotion within the context of the scene. If you don’t do this already, give it a try. Odds are you’re already listening to music while writing. The music you listen to affects your writing as much as it affects your mood. Sometimes it may seem like a scene isn’t working right. Maybe it’s the music. After all, how can you write a sad scene while listening to a happy, pop song?

Become the musical composer to your stories as well as the director and writer. In the same mindset, use music when filling out a character profile such as the one from last week’s post. Finding out the types of songs your characters listen to when they’re happy, sad, etc. can bring them more to life for your writing.

Here’s a list of some songs that I use while writing:

Of course you don’t have to use the same music I do. Find the songs that evoke the emotions you’re looking to conjure. What song makes you happy, romantic, angry (in a “rage-y” way, not “you hate the song” way), sad, love-sick, etc.? Think about it. Make a playlist and use that for your next writing/editing session. You may see a change in your scenes you didn’t expect.

Leave a comment below about your favorite music that you listen to while writing!

~Check back next week for Writer’s Brain: Part 5-Time~

Writer’s Brain Collection

Excerpt from Chpt. 9 ‘The Whole Truth’

“They’re not here,” a deep voice said behind him.

Isaiah turned to face the voice.

A thin man stood sneering at Isaiah. His sharp, piercing black eyes mocked him from under the brim of a sleek, black military cap. He stood tall in his uniform and overcoat.

“Who?” Isaiah asked as he eyed the man.

“You know who,” the man barked. He cackled loudly when he saw Isaiah flinch, enjoying having gotten the reaction he wanted. “I know…you came here to find them. Don’t you remember? They left a looong time ago,” his voice drawled, “with your help, of course.” He held a gloved, thin finger up in the air, cocked his head to one side with his mouth open as if in thought. “Josefina–that was her name, wasn’t it?” He grinned showing every sharp, sparkling-white tooth.

Isaiah clenched his hands into fists. “I ought to kill you right here,” he hissed.

“It was a real shame to leave such a beauty to die in the dirt. A real shame. Even bigger shame was that she didn’t go out quickly like the boy. He went down easy.” He licked over his canines teasingly.

Before Isaiah could charge the distance between them the Hound was holding him by the throat, his grip crushing and forcing Isaiah to his knees. Isaiah scratched at the Hound’s fingers. Just as the darkness closed in on his eyes, Isaiah felt his body fall and hit a hard, cold floor. He gasped, sputtering on the musty air he breathed in sharply. His eyes flitted about taking in the new surroundings. A darkened cell came into view and a pair of boots was hovering nearby in the shadowy edges of his vision.

Storm knelt down close to his head giving Isaiah a good view of his freshly blood-spattered boots.

“You can’t resist me much longer. The boy tried and died. Your woman tried and died. You have nothing left. You couldn’t save them and you can’t save yourself,” he whispered.

Ice-cold metal touched Isaiah’s temple.

“Give up,” Storm hissed into Isaiah’s ear.

“I’ll die first,” Isaiah croaked.

“Have it your way.” 

Text ©2015 Nicole Callaghan

All Rights Are Reserved.

Available on Kindle: “The Soldier’s Whisper”

Available from Jaffa Books: “The Soldier’s Whisper” (print)

Writer’s Brain: Part 3-Character Development

*Sorry for the delay in publishing. My words were jumbled up and not cooperating to make a sensible post.*

There are many, many, many, MANY ways that people go about creating their characters. Just take a stroll through Google or Pinterest and you’ll see what I mean.

When writing, usually, we have a pretty good idea as to who our characters are going to be. You got your bad guy and good guy, collection of bad guys, or collection of neutral guys. But, do you really know them? After all, maybe your innocent character is actually a psycho or your manic character is a sensitive soul; but you don’t find out until chapter four. (Yikes.)

The way I try to find out more about my characters is to use a profile from the book, Character Design Studio, which I got years before I took up writing. (I’ll include a link to it, don’t worry.) The book, besides giving me an awesome profile to work with, also gave me insight into the different categories or roles that characters can fall into. They are as follows:

  • Heroes-“To find meaning in life and bring that to the lives of the people in their world.”
  • Mentors-“Teaches and advises Hero.”
  • Threshold Guardians-“Obstructs Hero’s path and tests their resolve.”
  • Heralds-“Brings messages to the Hero. Helps motivate Hero.”
  • Shapeshifters-“Can fulfill several roles and create confusion.”
  • Shadows-“To stop the Hero from reaching his goal.”
  • Tricksters-“Comic relief. To point of absurdities and hypocrisy. To create chaos.”

So, we have an idea of where our characters fall within the roles now. We can then fill out the profile to flesh them out. The profile gets down to their weight, height, and other such characteristics. The profile goes so far as to have you list your character’s ambitions, religious/political affiliations, and motivations.

Wait…what’s the difference between ambitions and motivations? Ambition is the fervent desire for an object that confers distinction or to distinguish one’s self from others. For example, I have the ambition to get to the top five on the NY best sellers list. (As true as it is, that’s quite a feat for unknown writers.) Motivation is the reason for doing something, such as achieving that ambition. Find that motivation to achieve the ambition of creating characters readers will love, love to hate, and cry over.

Truly make the effort to delve into your characters. Take the time to fill out the profile with the mindset that you are creating a real person that you could talk to about their favorite food or school life or families. Even if it’s the alien, Rothblart the Blob. He may tell you about growing up amongst the other aliens who teased him for his soft, bulbous shape after his family moved to a new planet, escaping a plague on their home planet. The other aliens all being stone figures or whatever. Little did they know that was merely his larval stage.

Now, if you’re interested in getting the book, I must say that it is “technically” a tool for comic book/graphic novel creators. However (!), who’s to say that your average novel writer cannot use it? (Many thanks to Chris Patmore for his book, Character Design Studio!) This is the profile document: Blank Character Profile

Go, confront the design. Create. WRITE! And comment below, darlings, I enjoy your insights.

~Check back next week for Writer’s Brain: Part 4-Music for Writing~

Writer’s Brain Collection

Otep: The Emerald of the Republic

Of the States, Otep is most deceiving. Its Elder, Augusta Miller, brought Otep up to become the top crop producer in the Republic…in the middle of the desert. With the aid of another Elder, Augusta and her people pushed forward to develop advanced techniques to grow their crops. Using the trains, Otep delivers produce all over the Republic.

The state is also, though possibly less known, the largest producer of wind power. Winds of up to 27 miles per hour have been reported. It is great for powering the State; but, not so much during fire season.

While in Otep you can ride Elder Augusta’s horses, pick fresh fruits or vegetables, or go sand surfing. Augusta offers one room in her personal home to someone looking to experience the full Otep lifestyle over the summer. Elder Anne stayed with Augusta at least once in her youth.

If you’re looking for a unique travel location, look no further than Otep. Though not necessarily the greenest, it truly is the Emerald of the Republic.

Created by NCM. Pictures from Pixabay

Writer’s Brain: Part 2-Dreams

eapoe moon

Lying in bed again. Only this time, my husband is deployed; and my mind and black cat are my only companions in a large, “empty” house. I’m a few months into the deployment, almost halfway. So to say I should be used to lying alone in bed is understandable. Just tell that to my anxiety. Every night, I lie there listening for anything out of the normal, unsettling silence of Kansas. The light on my nightstand illuminates half of the room. I’d recently installed a new lightbulb for a light by our front door, to deter any would be burglars. In my haste at the store, however, I’d managed to pick up lightbulbs as bright as the sun. I joked to my husband when he called that I had a UFO tractor beam out front shining into the house.

Back to me in bed.

I’m asleep but awake. I’m checking the front door is closed as the light outside pours in, but the door is open and it is pitch black outside. I’m cautiously walking to the bedroom away from the darkness, but I’m being cradle carried by a figure I just can’t see.

It lays me down gently on my side in the dark room. A gravelly voice starts to murmur in my ear. I sleepily ask if it’s my husband then my mother as I reach back to the figure’s face. Pinpoint teeth prick my fingers as it smiles and answers, “No”. My breath struggles to fully inflate my lungs as panic sets in. My limbs are trapped under the blankets in which I somehow became wrapped. The figure moves away to the bedroom door, into the light beam from the hallway. A black, flat top hat sit upon its black, straw hair. Its shoulders burdened by a heavy, black coat. Without looking back, it says “Come find me when you wake up” and then leaves, supposedly to wait in my living room.

With that, the spell on my limbs breaks and I awake to my partially lit bedroom throwing my sheets off. I grab my phone and text my husband who would be awake at that time. (Thank God for technology.) Tears are filling my eyes and my brain is hitting itself against a brick wall of fear. After a few texts my husband calls me and calmly guides me through turning on lights and walking through to the living room where (of course) no one is waiting. What a twist it would’ve been had someone been there, right?

Now, that was my first experience with a paralysis dream. During the following months I would have about two more but that first one took the cake. “How could a dream have such an effect as that to illicit that reaction?”, a person may ask. My anxiety could be a good reason, personally speaking. Those fears of an intruder manifesting themselves in my mind.

We hope to create such vivid feelings when we write. So why not tap into our dreams? Last week I talked about memories. The difference between memories and dreams are that our memories have been written and are just played back (as we remember them). Dreams are our brains’ construction using memories and thoughts and feelings as jumping points. Much like in our waking, our minds are writing scenes that flow and/or jump around with little connection. The mind makes us believe the dream is real. (Those falling dreams, anyone?) How we use dreams for writing can be simple.

Usually we dream and forget it. There are those who claim to be Inception DiCaprio and can manipulate their dream worlds. I find in my regular dreams I can realize that I am dreaming and subsequently wake up from said dream. (Lots of demon/ghost dreams led to that discovery. Going exorcist on those dreams!) However, dreams can play a role in your writing. They can be used to create a full scene, make a dream sequence for a character, that thing where the whole experience was a dream (not the best usage, honestly), or character creation.

A trick to start using your dreams for writing is, first and foremost, to start a dream journal. You don’t have to write every dream down (unless that one with pink elephants is helpful). Stick with just the ones you feel are meaningful and be fairly consistent. Eventually, you will be able to really remember your dreams because your brain will say “hey, these seem important since we’re writing them down. I’ll do my best to hold onto them after you wake up”. Just know you have about five minutes to recall “mundane” dreams after waking up. More intense ones tend to linger.

If you’re having trouble with a scene, think about it or read it over before you fall asleep. You may just dream about it.

Think about your characters and how they interact before you fall asleep. They might make an appearance.

Delve into your dreams. Do some research on dream interpretation sites and see what lies beneath. (Hello, Freud!)

Have you ever used your dreams in your writing? Do you find to be useful? Are you one of those who can change your dreams? Let me know in the comments below!

~Check back next week for Part 3-Character development~

Writer’s Brain Collection

Writer’s Brain: Part 1-Memories

My brain is weird, I realized at a young age. It’s not as weird as some but it’s weirder than others. Like most nights lately, I lie awake while cuddling my black cat and being cuddled by my hubby who fell asleep half an hour ago. Why I’m awake is because my brain decided to play all kinds of memories. Most nights it’s something scary (thanks, anxiety!) like snippets of the new “IT” movie. However, occasionally, it’s from my life. Last night, my brain played a memory of a conversation I had with my mother back in college. We were talking about nothing ground breaking or emotionally charged. Just us sitting in the library conversing about classes. No prompting brought it up. My brain simply selected it at random. Weird, right?

Why all this talk about memories? Well, I like to use them as fuel for my writing. It is something that I’m sure many do for their writing. After all, we can’t write on blank pages from blank pages. The other day I was gleaning through an interview with Neil Gaiman in the back of his book, “The Ocean at the End of the Lane”. (I, unfortunately, haven’t finished reading it yet.) In my gleaning, he spoke of his memories of the place where he’d grown up and the men who weren’t the warmest, his grandmother’s home was always welcoming, and the kitchen was a place of love. All of this fueled his creation of the three fantastical ladies who invite the protagonist into their lives/world in the book.

When writing “The Soldier’s Whisper”, I had to dig into many memories to fill out my scenes to their fullest. They sometimes had to fill holes in some places where I hadn’t had the experience. Have I ever lost a loved one to war? Thankfully, no. However, being a child to not one but two military parents, it crossed my mind a lot that one day one of my parents may not come back home. Was I ever tortured for information? No; but I knew some techniques and people’s reactions thanks to documentaries. (Fun fact: did you know the bamboo torture technique involved laying people over bamboo shoots and waiting for the bamboo to literally grow through them?) Chilling and thrilling stuff for this writer. Have I ever been in a fire fight in the woods? Yes; if you count a paintball game.

Those are just some examples which required my memories to bring true feelings to a scene. Memories serve as a way to bring scenes into reality. After writing and editing for so long, eventually, those scenes seem to be personal memories one can play constantly. You can begin to recall sights, sounds, and smells once you’ve inserted yourself in the scene that way. Literally become lost in your writing. Now depending on what you write, it may not be the best method; but, it is a great way for me to tap into a scene or to keep a story moving.

Oscar Wilde said, “Memory…is the diary that we all carry about with us.” We collect memories without realizing it. So, if you’re suffering from the dreaded Block, perhaps tap into some memories and you’ll find your solution. You never know, that one time in third grade where you tripped someone while tying your shoe might be the key to your next scene. No? Just me? Okay…

What are some ways you use memories in writing? Do you use them constantly or sparingly? Do you think memories are good to use in fiction or should be left to nonfiction writings? Leave a comment below and let me know your thoughts!

~Check back next week for Part 2-Dreams~

Author’s Corner

Discussion Questions

  1. What did you learn or get out of this book?
  2. What surprised you about the book?
  3. What scene resonated with you personally, in either a positive/negative way? Why?
  4. Who were your least and most favorite characters? Why?
  5. Were there any moments you disagreed with the choices of the characters? What would you have done differently? (E.g.-Claire taking in Isaiah)
  6. What similar concerns do Claire and Diana have? How do they overcome their self-doubts and fears despite their opposition? 
  7. How do you feel the belief of “Nature vs. Nurture” played between the brothers, Gideon Alastor and Jothan Auberon? Could Jothan have been like Gideon had he stayed under his father’s guidance?
  8. The theme of “Family vs. Duty” appears constantly. Which characters chose duty over family? Were they right in their decisions?
  9. Claire had to choose between staying with Emma and going to help fight General Gideon “Axis” Alastor. How else could things have played out had she stayed with Emma?
  10. Did your opinion of the book change as you read it?
  11. How did the book make you feel? (Happy, sad, angry, scared, etc.)
  12. (Bonus) Would you go see a movie/watch a show based on this book?

Urgent Message to the People

From the desk of Dr. Anne Santa-Fiore

11 August 78 A.O.A.

Dearest Citizens of Saints,

    The day has come that we must surrender our Saints or our lives. Do not believe any of the lies the serpent, General Alastor, will spread. He will likely reveal my family has plans to leave the state. My decision to leave with my family has been one of great heartache but for the future of Saints.

    My people, I urge you to use this next week to gather your loved ones and leave for the safe zones. Plans to aid your exodus are in motion. Do not allow your families to fall victim to Axis. He will show no mercy, no remorse, and no hesitation.

    Know that I have not abandoned you. Take care of your families and ensure that they will be there to rebuild the day General Alastor is defeated.

                                             All my love,

          Anne Santa-Fiore