Hank the Cowdog by John R. Erickson

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It took me a while, but the more I wrote stories the more I realized I had a love for mystery.

I grew up writing all different kinds of genres. I started writing fan fiction and my first completed novel was romance-ish. The reason for the “ish” at the end of “romance” is a story for another time.

I’ve come up with fantasy ideas inspired by The Lord of the Rings as well as superhero-fantasy inspired by X-Men. I’ve written general fiction, Christian fiction, and a mainstream romance. I’ve tried my hand at script-writing as well as poetry and children’s picture books.

It wasn’t until I thought of the idea of George Florence that I realized I was so into mysteries. What made me want to write a mystery novel was because of the video game Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney.

Though I recently realized that my love for mysteries go way back to when I was much younger.

Someone asked what I used to enjoy reading as a kid and my first instinct was Hank the Cowdog by John R. Erickson.

Hank the Cowdog

Via HanktheCowdog.com

It’s a children’s chapter book series that’s very long. Though, if memory serves, you didn’t have to read the books in order. Each book was a different series with the same characters.

Hank was a dog who solved mysteries with his sidekick, Drover. If I remember him correctly, he was a bit of a coward and preferred to stay out of trouble.

I remember getting the audio books from the library and my sister and I, since we shared a room, would put the tape on during bedtime. We would listen to it in our beds in the dark. When it was time to flip the tape over (because cassette tapes were a thing back then…) we would go to sleep and listen to the next side the following night. Then it was back to the library to get the next book.

I had a few of the books in the series. I think I had books one through nine and then number 36 or something like that. There are 66 books total so I didn’t even make a dent in the series. Though I do still have the books in a storage space by my bed.

It’s a series I’ll never forget and I plan to buy them all someday for my own children to read and enjoy.

How to Name Your Characters

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Naming Your Characters: First Names

Your name is part of what makes you you. That’s no different from the characters in your story.

Some people say that names aren’t important. It’s the description and development throughout the story that creates loveable, relateable characters.

I think names are pretty important as well. Plus, they’re a lot of fun.

There are two ways I come up with names for my characters:

1. I check the meanings behind them.

I love to look up various names and check their meanings. It makes the character feel more one with the story, if that makes any sense.

I think it shows that you put thought into the name of your character. It shows that your character is important to the plot somehow. It’s like the Story Gods have chosen that name for your character because they have a big destiny to fulfill–which is your plot.

For example, in the very first novel I wrote, Diary of a Lover, I named the protagonist Venus. Venus is love-struck by a boy in her class. She comes on too strong. She doesn’t know how to take no for an answer.

Knowing that little bout of information about her, I chose the name Venus for a few reasons.

One, Venus is also known as the Goddess of Love. The meaning of her name is literally “love.” Right off the bat, that tells you something about Venus.

Two, Venus is a unique name that you don’t hear very often. This makes her stand out as a character. It tells you she is someone important. Plus, because it’s not a common name, you’ll always think of her when you think of Venus.

2. I do the complete opposite of checking the meaning–I come up a random name on my own.

This kind of contradicts everything I just said, but there are no right or wrong ways to name your characters.

If you create a character and a name suddenly pops into your head… Use it. There was probably a reason that name was your first instinct.

For example, I came up with the name George for my George Florence series because I was trying to think of a “goofy” name. At first, George was a goofy detective, but George Constanza from Seinfeld popped into my head. Thus, George was born. I don’t know what made me think of Seinfeld, but the name stuck.

George’s personality has changed drastically since then, but I’ve written George for a few years now that he has just become one with his name. He’s grown into it and it suits him.

Names can have a lot of meaning behind the characters. Choose wisely.

I have a baby name book that I tend to use a lot, but here are some of my favorite websites to find names:

Baby Names
Baby Name Genie
Behind the Name
Fantasy Name Generator

Short Story Sunday 95

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Short story sunday writing prompt

            It wasn’t until he handed his credit card over to the cashier that everything suddenly became real to him. He couldn’t believe this was something he was actually doing. He had decided to buy this on a complete whim. He didn’t even think about the money being an issue.

He wanted one. That was it.

Al had just moved out of his parents’ house about three months ago. He lived in a fairly small condo, but with just him at home it seemed to be a decent size. The condo had two bedrooms and he could just turn the second bedroom into a different kind of room if he wanted to. If he really needed to.

The front yard wasn’t much, but the backyard was okay. He had enough room to stretch out. There was some wooded area behind his house, but he had shaved off some of the weeds, dead trees, and plucked some poisonous plants away. It wasn’t a grassy field, but it made the yard look a tad bigger anyway.

“Sign here, please.” The cashier slide a small receipt over the counter along with a pen.

Al rubbed his hands together hoping to get the sweat off before he touched her pen. Then he picked it up and signed his name without a word. His hand shook as his cursive flowed from one letter to the other causing his signature to look like a five-year-old printing their name on their very first library card.

He let out a deep, nervous breath as he slid the paper back over to the cashier, who smiled at him.

“There is no need to be nervous. You are ready to take on this responsibility, aren’t you?” she asked looking serious once more.

Al nodded his head swallowing a lump in his throat.

He had wanted one for so long, ever since he was a young boy. He finally had his own space and had been preparing for this for a while. Being a bachelor was a lonely life, especially when you worked complete opposite hours from your friends.

“Are you ready to take him home?” the cashier asked. She stretched out her arm pointing to come behind Al.

Al turned around slowly as another worked entered the lobby. She was being dragged by a small, ten-pound Beagle puppy.

The puppy army crawled towards Al as hard as he could on account the leash was holding him back. His tongue hung out the side of his mouth panting loudly as though he was smiling. His tail wagged uncontrollably high in the air.

Al couldn’t help but smile. He bent his knees squatting to the ground and opened his arms wide. Without missing her cue, the worker released the leash from her grip and the Beagle pup dashed into Al’s arms.

Al finally had a friend to call his own. They both did.

Words: 480

The Munich Girl by Phyllis Edgerly Ring

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The Munich Girl by Phyllis Edgerly Ring book review

Via Amazon

Title: The Munich Girl: A Novel of the Legacies That Outlast War
Author: Phyllis Edgerly Ring
Genre: Historical Fiction
How I got it: From the author in exchange for an honest review

Summary (from Amazon):

Anna Dahlberg grew up eating dinner under her father’s war-trophy portrait of Eva Braun. Fifty years after the war, she discovers what he never did—that her mother and Hitler’s mistress were friends. The secret surfaces with a mysterious monogrammed handkerchief, and a man, Hannes Ritter, whose Third Reich family history is entwined with Anna’s. Plunged into the world of the “ordinary” Munich girl who was her mother’s confidante—and a tyrant’s lover—Anna finds her every belief about right and wrong challenged. With Hannes’s help, she retraces the path of two women who met as teenagers, shared a friendship that spanned the years that Eva Braun was Hitler’s mistress, yet never knew that the men they loved had opposing ambitions. Eva’s story reveals that she never joined the Nazi party, had Jewish friends, and was credited at the Nuremberg Trials with saving 35,000 Allied lives. As Anna’s journey leads back through the treacherous years in wartime Germany, it uncovers long-buried secrets and unknown reaches of her heart to reveal the enduring power of love in the legacies that always outlast war.

My Review (may contain spoilers!):

During my read of this novel, there were times that I wasn’t sure if it was fiction or not. The information spread throughout the story seems so realistic that you would think you were reading a memoir from Hitler’s time.

Of course, I don’t know too much about that time period so I’m not entirely sure exactly how much of the information was true and how much was fiction. However, I enjoyed following Anna on her journey as she researched her mother’s past as well as Hitler’s mistress.

I enjoyed the characters enough that I actually cared about what Anna was going to find about her past. Every character was well written and developed well. The only character I had a problem with was Anna’s husband… But I’m sure we’re not really supposed to like him.

I loved the subtle genres in this novel. It’s historical fiction, with a hint of mystery and romance. I love mysteries and it was fun to piece together Anna’s past along with her and Hannes.

Speaking of Anna and Hannes, their romance was perfect. I’m not one for romance, but their love story was subtle enough that we knew they were a match, but it took time. It wasn’t dramatic love-at-first-sight.

The writing style fit the story as well as the timeline for the story. Phyllis Edgerly Ring wrote this story perfectly. And this is coming from someone who doesn’t normally read this genre.

The Munich Girl by Phyllis Edgerly Ring gets 5 out of 5 stars.

Favorite Quote:

“And I think there’s wisdom in those dreams. Your heart knows there’s only one thing worth searching for. And it has absolutely nothing to do with him.” –Phyllis Edgerly Ring, The Munich Girl

About the Author:

Phyllis Edgerly Ring lives in New Hampshire and returns as often as she can to her childhood home in Germany. She has studied plant sciences and ecology, worked as a nurse, been a magazine writer and editor, taught English to kindergartners in China, and frequently serves as workshop facilitator and coach for others’ writing projects. She is also the author of the novel, Snow Fence Road, and inspirational nonfiction, Life at First Sight: Finding the Divine in the Details.

Blog | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

You can buy The Munich Girl: A Novel of the Legacies That Outlasts War on Amazon.

Time to Write: Introductions

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Last week’s prompt was a Sentence Starter: “I awoke to the sound of…”

Nandini wrote a modified piece of the prompt at her blog, Pages That Rustle.

Thanks Nandini!

This week’s prompt is…

Time to write writing prompt introductions

Introduce a brand new character as though you’re beginning a new novel. We don’t need to know any plot or premise of the story, just introduce the main character.

Give us enough background to make us want to follow the character, even if we don’t know what the story is about. But don’t reveal everything all at once. Keep us wondering about this character.

Feel free to post your story in the comments below. I’d love to see what you come up with. In addition, I’ll post your story and a link to your blog for next week’s Time to Write prompt.

Happy writing!

Entering Writing Contests

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Entering Writing Contests

One of my goals for this year is to enter more writing contests and submit more of my writing to magazines and the like. I don’t really have anything “worthy” of agents or publishers yet, but I want to start getting my writing out there.

I would like to submit at least one piece of writing to something per month.

I sent a short story to a contest in January. I don’t really know what I’m going to do for this month.

But here’s my question: How do you prepare for a writing contest?

Do you have a story or poem in mind that you’re already written and then search for a contest that is looking for that kind of story? Or do you find a contest and write something based on the contest’s needs?

Last month I had a short story written and ready to go. I found a couple different contests that were looking for general fiction short stories. There was no theme, no specific genre. So I sent it in.

This month there are some contests I would love to enter, but can I don’t really have anything ready to submit.

How can I come up with an idea based on the guidelines, write it, edit it, and make sure it’s ready to face judges along with a ton of other pieces all by the deadline.

So what do you do? What works best for you?

I’ll let you all know my decision whenever I figure it out, but if you have any ideas or tips for me that’d be great.

Grammar Check: “A” Vs. “An”

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Grammar Check Inspiration Station

A

–Used before a consonant

Example:
1. A dog
2. A lucky man

An

–Used before a vowel

Example:
1. An animal
2. An elephant

However…

–When a word beginning with a silent “h,” use an.

Example:
1. An hour
2. An honest man

–When “u” makes a y-sound or “o” makes a w-sound, use a.

Example:
1. A unicorn
2. A once-in-a-lifetime opportunity 

Pay attention to the sound and you’ll be good to go.

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