Arthur Mitchell and Plutus Mystery #3 is available now.

Arthur Mitchell and Plutus Mystery #3 is available now.

By David Joel Miller, MS, Writer.

Letters From The Dead

Arthur Mitchell discovers a letter from Abigail Morton Pettengrew to Inspector Detective Thaddeus Kincaid describing a kidnap and murder. Abigail and Detective Kincaid are both dead and now someone is out to end Arthur’s life.

Letters from the Dead is the third in the Arthur Mitchell mystery series.

My latest book, Letters from the Dead, is now available.

Letters from the Dead is my fifth book, the third in the Arthur Mitchell and his Dog Plutus Mystery Series. Letters from the Dead is available on Amazon in both Kindle and paperback editions.

Counselorssoapbox YouTube video channel continues to grow.

I started this video channel project largely for the students and counseling classes. I can tell the younger students prefer watching videos to reading the text. Creating videos this turned out to be a bit of a challenge for this digital immigrant. The current series of videos about drug use and abuse. Please feel free to check out the videos.

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

FIVE David Joel Miller Books are available now!

Letters from the Dead. Arthur Mitchell discovers a letter from Abigail Morton Pettengrew to Inspector Detective Thaddeus Kincaid describing a kidnap and murder. Abigail and Detective Kincaid are both dead and now someone is out to end Arthur’s life.

Planned Accidents. Arthur Mitchell and his dog Plutus discover another mystery.

Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Casino Robbery is a novel about a man with PTSD who must cope with his symptoms to solve a mystery and create a new life.

SasquatchWandering through a hole in time, they encounter Sasquatch. Can they survive? The guests had come to Meditation Mountain to find themselves. Trapped in the Menhirs during a sudden desert storm, two guests move through a porthole in time and encounter long extinct monsters. They want to get back to their own time, but the Sasquatch intends to kill them.

For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Author Page – David Joel Miller

Books are now available on Amazon.

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

Want the latest on news from recoveryland, the field of counseling, my writing projects, speaking and teaching? Please sign up for my newsletter at – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam, and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse, and Co-occurring disorders see my Facebook author’s page, davidjoelmillerwriter. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com.

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Arthur Mitchell and his dog Plutus discover another mystery.

By David Joel Miller, MS, Writer.

Arthur Mitchell and his detective dog Plutus are enjoying their peaceful life when Arthur’s friends begin to die in mysterious accidents. Who is behind these accidents and will Arthur be the next to die? What is the meaning of the clues Plutus discovers?

Planned Accidents is the second Arthur Mitchell mystery series.

My latest book, Planned Accidents, is finally finished.

Planned Accidents is my fourth book, the second in the Arthur Mitchell and his dog Plutus mystery series. Planned Accidents, the Kindle edition, is now and the preorder phase. Its official release date is April 1, 2019. The paperback edition is currently available from Amazon.

I started this book last November as part of the NaNoWriMo contest. Planned Accidents was one of the “winners” of that adventure in 2018. I have spent the last three months editing and revising the book. Of course, life always seems to get in the way of being creative. So, there have been several starts and stops along the way. I think the reason I finally finished this book was I set a firm deadline for myself for it to be released by 1 April.

Counselorssoapbox YouTube video channel continues to grow.

I started this video channel project largely for the students and counseling classes. I can tell the younger students prefer watching videos to reading the text. Creating videos has turned out to be a bit of a challenge for this digital immigrant. The current series of videos are about drug use and abuse. Please feel free to check out the videos.

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Four David Joel Miller Books are available now!

Planned Accidents. Arthur Mitchell and his dog Plutus discover another mystery.

Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Casino Robbery is a novel about a man with PTSD who must cope with his symptoms to solve a mystery and create a new life.

SasquatchWandering through a hole in time, they encounter Sasquatch. Can they survive? The guests had come to Meditation Mountain to find themselves. Trapped in the Menhirs during a sudden desert storm, two guests move through a porthole in time and encounter long extinct monsters. They want to get back to their own time, but the Sasquatch intends to kill them.

For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Author Page – David Joel Miller

Books are now available on Amazon.

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

Want the latest on news from recoveryland, the field of counseling, my writing projects, speaking and teaching? Please sign up for my newsletter at – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam, and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse, and Co-occurring disorders see my Facebook author’s page, davidjoelmillerwriter. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com.

My promiscuous relationship with punctuation.

By David Joel Miller, MS, Licensed Therapist & Licensed Counselor.

Man writing

Writing.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

Periodically I get in trouble with the punctuation police.

If you’re one of those people who has memorized the entire Code of Federal Regulations section on proper punctuation, you probably have little sympathy for my proclivity for loose relationships with punctuation.

I will plead guilty to abusing commas and neglecting my hyphens, but with an explanation.

I came from a home filled with dysfunctional punctuation.

I grew up without a good role model for punctuation. What I know about her I learned on the streets from certain undesirable types who use punctuation purely for oral communication. I learned early, that people who came from proper punctuation homes followed a certain code. But when you learn your punctuation for use in ordinary conversation, you’re likely to ignore some of the punctuation etiquettes.

Someone who is effective as a public speaker inserts frequent pauses for dramatic effect. The resulting (pregnant pause) often is in no way related to (pause) the proper use of Miss Comma. If you’re used to the looser variety of commas, you would prefer that they spoke plainly, telling you what they mean rather than hiding behind a fan of proper punctuation rules.

Why has Miss Comma fallen out of fashion?

I find it disconcerting, when reading aloud the text of the speech that someone gave, to encounter Miss Commas smiling face in places where the speaker would never have permitted her while eschewing to allow that same Miss Comma to continue to maintain her ongoing relationship with that person’s speech. I realize that proper punctuation is all the rage these days. I prefer my punctuation to be plain speaking, saying what she means and meaning what she says rather than hiding behind her cousins, dashes, colons, and semicolons.

No matter how much the dictates of fashion might change, my taste seems unchangeably fixed. Despite the current proclivity towards severely underweight women, I continue to prefer women with a little meat on their bones. Likewise, despite frequent opportunities to date some of these newer punctuation marks, I would rather spend my sentences was several commas than to engage in a dalliance with even a single frivolous dash.

I trust you will forgive an old man for this philosophical digression.

You’ll find more posts on this topic under – Writing.

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Three David Joel Miller Books are available now!

Bumps on the Road of Life. (Non-Fiction) Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Casino Robbery is a novel about a man with PTSD who must cope with his symptoms to solve a mystery and create a new life.

SasquatchWandering through a hole in time, they encounter Sasquatch. Can they survive? The guests had come to Meditation Mountain to find themselves. Trapped in the Menhirs during a sudden desert storm, two guests move through a porthole in time and encounter long extinct monsters. They want to get back to their own time, but the Sasquatch intends to kill them.

For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Author Page – David Joel Miller

Books are now available on Amazon, Kobo, iBooks, Barnes & Noble, Google Play, and many other online stores.

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

Want the latest on news from recoveryland, the field of counseling, my writing projects, speaking and teaching? Please sign up for my newsletter at – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam, and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse, and Co-occurring disorders see my Facebook author’s page, davidjoelmillerwriter. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com.

The pain of revision.

By David Joel Miller, Writer.

Man writing

Writing.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

After the writing comes the revision.

Cover for planned accidents book

Planned Accidents cover

As some of you are aware, I spent the month of November participating in the NaNoWriMo (the National Novel Writing Month) contest. This event is the fourth time I have attempted this and the third time I have succeeded in completing a first draft of a novel in one month.

Participating in the contest has taught me a great deal about writing a novel. What I’m struggling with now, even more than writing a novel, is the process of revision, trying to turn that first rough draft into something worth publishing. I would like to share with you some of the challenges I’m experiencing in revision, but first a little background.

Casino Robbery started the Arthur Mitchell mysteries series.

Planned Accidents is the second in the Arthur Mitchell mystery series. Arthur’s adventures began in the book Casino Robbery. After the financial crisis in 2008 Arthur Mitchell, accountant, gave up working at Fantastic Finance to take what he thought would be a safe and stable job working as an accountant for a Las Vegas casino. Arthur was trying to avoid anything risky. What Arthur hadn’t expected was to be in the middle of taking his fiancée to lunch when the casino was robbed. During the robbery, the criminals shot Arthur and killed his fiancée.

Because of the robbery, Arthur developed a severe case of PTSD. Unable to return to work Arthur opened a small thrift and collectible store on a rural Highway between Las Vegas and Utah. Unfortunately for Arthur, it turned out that as being shot wasn’t accidental, someone had wanted him dead, and he was pulled into investigating the robbery. Arthur became both an amateur and an accidental sleuth.

Planning Accidents turned into Planned Accidents.

Arthur has settled into running his thrift store, thinking the danger is behind him, when someone begins contacting the former employees at Fantastic Finance demanding money. First one and then another of Arthur’s former colleagues dies in mysterious accidents. At least that’s what the police think they are. Arthur’s not so sure any of this is accidental.

I started this novel with the working title Planning Accidents. What I found, as I wrote was that talking too much about planning the accidents took the focus off my hero Arthur and started me writing more about the people who could be planning these accidents. To shift the focus back on to Arthur and how he is drawn into investigating these supposed accidents, I’ve decided to change the title to Planned Accidents.

My first draft ended up with a lot of loose threads.

As I began my revision in January, I discovered I had included a lot of events that had nothing to do with Planned Accidents. Several times in the first draft I had Arthur buy some limited-edition lithographs. When Arthur inspects the lithographs, he discovers he has two copies of the same piece of art both with the same serial number. Somebody has been counterfeiting works of art and selling them directly to collectors. Once Arthur purchases the art from those collectors, the fraud becomes apparent.

Of course, the counterfeiters don’t want to be caught, and they make life extremely dangerous for Arthur Mitchell, as in they try to kill him. Once I realized this whole subplot had nothing to do with the Planned Accidents I pulled out the discovery of the duplicate lithographs and left that for Arthur to encounter in mystery number three or maybe even number four.

What do I do with the letters from the dead person?

One of the lots Arthur buys at an estate sale includes a bunch of letters an elderly lady had written to a police detective which were returned to her unopened. The author of the letters wrote to the detective describing a murder she had witnessed. Again, I discovered I had another crime for Arthur to investigate but trying to send him in that direction while he is trying to avoid being killed by someone who is planning his accidental death just mucked up the plot a little much. I pulled out all the material about the discovery of the letters from the witness, and I’ll save that for another Arthur Mitchell mystery. Once I get Planned Accidents finished, I think I want to start on this mystery, currently with the working title of “Letters from the Dead.” I think once we start opening the letters we will find the elderly lady witnessed more than one shocking crime.

Does this book need another page of description?

In the revision process, I struggle to decide whether I have written too much description or when there are insufficient details. I read a lot of other fiction, particularly in the amateur sleuth category. Occasionally I’m impressed by some extraordinarily brilliant description which produces a vivid image in my brain. More often though, when I reach long passages of description, I find myself speeding up, skimming over the description.

I am starting to feel like description, at least in an amateur sleuth mystery, is like spices in a stew. A little bit of spice, especially chili powder, can enhance the dish. But I don’t want my novel to resemble my stew, the time I accidentally dumped in a whole jar of chili powder.

I have an idea. If any of you readers would like to read draft two of “Planned Accidents” sign up for my mailing list or use the contact form and when it’s ready, I’ll send you an advanced reviewer copy of “Planned Accidents” and you can tell me if I’ve included too much or too little description. Of course, other feedback would be helpful also.

Does that dog ever do anything?

Something else I have been fixing as I’m working on draft number two is sorting out the role of Arthur’s dog Plutus. Plutus was important in the Casino Robbery book because he had belonged to Arthur’s fiancé’s Janet. In this mystery number two, Plutus kept turning up in various chapters but not doing much. As I revised, it became plain that Plutus unquestionably has a part to play in this story. Since Plutus helped Arthur solve the first mystery, I think I should put him to work helping to solve mystery number two and beyond.

There are some early thoughts about my revision project. I’ll share more with you in the future.

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Three David Joel Miller Books are available now!

Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Casino Robbery is a novel about a man with PTSD who must cope with his symptoms to solve a mystery and create a new life.

SasquatchWandering through a hole in time, they encounter Sasquatch. Can they survive? The guests had come to Meditation Mountain to find themselves. Trapped in the Menhirs during a sudden desert storm, two guests move through a porthole in time and encounter long extinct monsters. They want to get back to their own time, but the Sasquatch intends to kill them.

For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Author Page – David Joel Miller

Books are now available on Amazon, Kobo, iBooks, Barnes & Noble, and many other online stores.

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

Want the latest on news from recoveryland, the field of counseling, my writing projects, speaking and teaching? Please sign up for my newsletter at – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam, and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse, and Co-occurring disorders see my Facebook author’s page, davidjoelmillerwriter. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com.

Where do you buy your e-books?

By David Joel Miller, MS, Writer.

Man writing

Writing.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

The Internet is sure changing writing and e-books.

I live in the United States of America, California to be more exact. I’ve noticed that a lot of Americans seem to be very ethnocentric. It would be easy to forget that not everyone, everywhere, has the same experiences that you have.

California, the part of America I live in, is ethnically diverse. But California’s ethnic diversity is nothing compared to the diversity on the Internet. Because I write in English it would be tempting to believe that most of my readers lived in the United States, or maybe the United States plus one or two other English-speaking countries. I know it’s possible to translate web pages automatically, but I still suspect most of my blog readers are reading counselorssoapbox.com in English.

The diversity of my readers continues to amaze me. Thanks to all of you in the over 130 countries who have read counselorssoapbox.com. Thank you to all the people in the UK, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand who have read this blog on a regular basis since the very beginning.

Recently I’ve noticed a measurable increase in the number of posts read by people from China, Hong Kong, Nigeria, India, and Germany. From the stats, I can’t tell if these are a few people in each country who read every post I write, or if there are one or two posts that were read many times in these countries. I suspect it’s a mixture of regular readers and a few posts that resonated with readers in a specific country. Either way, I wanted to let you know I appreciate readers wherever you may live. Sorry if I didn’t mention your country, but to mention all of you would resemble the roll call of the UN.

So that brings me back to my question. Where you buy your e-books?

In the US Amazon is undoubtedly the largest seller of e-books. Amazon has certainly done an excellent job for me, and I continue to enjoy publishing my books on Amazon. I can tell from the stats I see on Amazon that they sell my books not only in the US but also in the UK and several other English-speaking countries. As good a job as Amazon does in the US and the UK; I suspect that they are not likely to be the primary bookseller in all those 130 other countries.

Recently I took two of my books, the novels, Casino Robbery and Sasquatch “wide.” Which means those books are now available on several other platforms.

To celebrate the addition of these other distributors one of my books Sasquatch is currently available free on each of the new e-book distributors platforms.

Using e-book aggregators.

To make those books available on all those other platforms, and to reach more of the countries in which I have blog readers, I’ve used two aggregators, who do the work of making the books available on various platforms.

The first aggregator I tried was Drafts2Digital, who makes my books available on Kobo, Apple iBooks, and Barnes & Noble

The second book aggregator I have used is PublishDrive who distributes my books to Google Play Books and some smaller European distributors.

Through these two aggregators, my books are also available on several other platforms.

My book Sasquatch will not be free forever.

So, if you get books from any of these other e-book distributors, you might want to grab a free copy of Sasquatch while it’s still available. If you do read one of my books, I would really appreciate you leaving an honest review. Reviews help me evaluate the job I’m doing of writing books my readers would like to read. Reviews also help others decide if they want that book.

If you read e-books, please leave a comment below and let me know where you get the books you read. Till next time, thanks for reading.

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Three David Joel Miller Books are available now!

Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Casino Robbery is a novel about a man with PTSD who must cope with his symptoms to solve a mystery and create a new life.

SasquatchWandering through a hole in time, they encounter Sasquatch. Can they survive? The guests had come to Meditation Mountain to find themselves. Trapped in the Menhirs during a sudden desert storm, two guests move through a porthole in time and encounter long extinct monsters. They want to get back to their own time, but the Sasquatch intends to kill them.

For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Author Page – David Joel Miller

Books are now available on Amazon, Kobo, iBooks, Barnes & Noble, and many other online stores.

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

Want the latest on news from recoveryland, the field of counseling, my writing projects, speaking and teaching? Please sign up for my newsletter at – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam, and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse, and Co-occurring disorders see my Facebook author’s page, davidjoelmillerwriter. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com.

Self-publishing requires many hats.

Self-publishing requires many hats.

Man writing

Writing.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

By David Joel Miller.

Self-publishers must fill many roles.

Bumps on the Road of Life.

Bumps on the Road of Life.
By David Joel Miller

Self-published authors need many hats. Even if you pay someone to do some of these functions; you still need to spend time on that role. I continue to feel like I’m just at the beginning of my self-publishing career, but when I look back over my shoulder and see how far I have come, it’s incredible.

My first blog post was in May 2011. I continue to learn about blogging. The transition from blogger to published author has been a steep uphill climb. My first book, Bumps on the Road of Life, a nonfiction book about recovery when life knocks you down, was published in late October 2017. Bumps was followed a week later by my first novel Casino Robbery. My second novel, Sasquatch Attacks, was released in September 2018.

Through this process have learned a great many things but I have many things yet to learn. To be successful as an indie author, however you define success, requires learning and practicing a great many skills. Here are some of the skills I’ve been working on developing.

Self-published, indie authors, must become researchers.

Photo of Casino Robbery book

Casino Robbery.

Writing a nonfiction book requires a lot of research. I thought there would be less research needed when I started writing fiction. I have learned that if I didn’t do the research before I began to write, I was likely to have to stop in the middle of writing and do that research.

Whatever you put in your book you need to describe accurately. I have had to research locations for my settings, weather patterns, clothing, and a great many other details. I’m tempted to write a fantasy novel set somewhere in my imagination. But a preliminary outline for my fantasy already tells me I will need to spend a lot of time creating this world in minute detail, so I don’t have my characters doing things that aren’t consistent with that setting.

I continue to learn about how to research effectively and plan to write another blog post about the lessons I’ve learned about how to be an effective researcher.

Self-publishers need to be creative authors.

Sasquatch Attacks - cover On Amazon

Sasquatch Attacks – cover
On Amazon

You would think making things up, that would be easy. Lots of people lie every day. Creating fictional characters doing fictional actions turns out to be harder than I had imagined. My creative process continues to change. I started primarily by imagining my protagonists, putting them in a setting and then creating obstacles for them to overcome.

For me, this process of “writing into the dark” involved a lot of stopping and starting. I get my character to a setting, and then I must describe the location. Next, I set my protagonist to interact with other people. But who are these people?

Over the last year, I’ve written several additional novels which I hope to get published in 2019. I found that the most creative part for me now is writing the outline. For each chapter I plan to write, I think about where the action will take place, who will be there, and what the action will be. As I work my way through the outline ideas for other possibilities pop into my head. This requires going back and inserting the helper who will come to the protagonist aid in chapter 12 into earlier sections, so the reader won’t be surprised when this character appears.

Independent authors need to be extreme editor’s.

Sasquatch - cover On other platforms

Sasquatch – cover
On other platforms

I continue to learn about the process of editing. Editing is a lot more than running the manuscript through spellcheck and Grammarly, as valuable as those tools are. Editing also involves looking for the things that been left out and cutting out the unnecessary, boring parts. One challenge I encounter, when editing, is balancing the need for correct grammar with establishing authentic voices for my characters and the narrator.

You may decide that you need to hire an editor. I read a lot of self-published books, and some of them are so full of typos and errors that it makes them hard to read. Paying an editor to weed out all those typos can be expensive. Whether you elect to pay an editor or do the editing yourself the more errors you find and correct the better the final product will be.

Indie authors are also their own publisher.

The publishing function includes several tasks starting with formatting the manuscript for submission. The requirements for an e-book are enormously different from those from a paperback. E-books can contain links while the paperback edition requires complete information, including the URL.

In publishing your book, you need to decide whether to go exclusively with Amazon or “publish wide” so that your books will be available on other platforms such as Kobo, Barnes & Noble, Google Play, Apple iBooks, and so on. If you “publish wide” you will need multiple formatted manuscripts. You can’t include links to your books on one platform in a manuscript published on another platform.

My nonfiction book is currently available exclusively on Amazon. The two novels I published wide. One of those novels has sold predominantly on Amazon, while the other novel has sold almost entirely on the other platforms. I learned a lot of lessons by attempting to publish wide. The decision to publish exclusively on Amazon, or to go wide on other platforms is a complicated one. That decision requires a full blog post all on its own.

Self-published authors need covers for their books.

Many indie authors pay someone to design their covers. A good cover can help sell your book. I feel like I’m just in the “kindergarten” of learning book cover design. I have used Amazon’s cover creator and found it very helpful. I’ve also tried designing my own covers. Creating a good cover is a lot harder than it looks. I continue to learn about creating covers.

Indie authors need to be their own Promotions and Publicist person.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful once having written your book and uploaded it to a platform, if that book suddenly started selling? With so many books on the market, the challenge is to make your book discoverable. Promoting sales of your book is an ongoing challenge.

There’s a short description of some of the various skills I’ve been learning in my process of writing and publishing my own books. I’m sure I have a great deal more to learn. If you have questions for me about my writing and publishing journey feel free to ask.

Part of the promotion process is getting reviews for your book. Securing more reviews for the books I have published is one of the things on my “to do” list. Honest reviews help other people decide whether to purchase a book. If you have read one of my books and have not yet left a review, I would appreciate one.

You’ll find more posts on this topic under – Writing.

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Three David Joel Miller Books are available now!

Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Casino Robbery is a novel about a man with PTSD who must cope with his symptoms to solve a mystery and create a new life.

For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Amazon Author Page – David Joel Miller

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

Sasquatch Attacks.

Sasquatch has discovered a hole in time and is preying on humans. Can two people lost in the desert survive?

The guests had come to Meditation Mountain to find themselves. Trapped in the Menhirs during a sudden desert storm, two guests move through a porthole in time and encounter long extinct monsters. They want to get back to their own time, but the Sasquatch wants to kill them.

Want the latest news from recoveryland, the field of counseling, my writing projects, speaking and teaching? Please sign up for my newsletter at – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam, and you can unsubscribe at any time. The newsletter started out to talk about mental health issues. I recently added some other categories. In addition to mental health, you can also sign up for newsletter updates about writing and my novels. You can sign up for any one of these lists or all 3.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse, and Co-occurring disorders see my Facebook author’s page, davidjoelmillerwriter. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com.

How do you create character names?

By David Joel Miller, MS, Writer.

Man writing

Writing.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

Creating effective character names can be a challenge.

I struggle with the process of naming the characters in my novels. Because of those struggles, I have discovered a few tricks. Like most every aspiring writer, I was a reader first. Recently I’ve been doing a great deal of reading out loud to my family. In doing all this reading, I discovered that the way some authors name their characters create problems. First, let me tell you the things I try to avoid doing when naming characters and my solutions to these problems. At the end of this post, I will list a few resources that I use to create character names.

Don’t use character names that will confuse your readers.

I get very frustrated when I’m reading a book, and there is a group of characters who appear in a scene who all have exceedingly similar names. It’s very unclear to read about Betty, Barbara, Becky, and Bethany who meet a group of men named Daniel, Danny, Doug, and David. It takes the reader a while to get characters straight in their head. I try to avoid having two characters in the same novel whose names start with the same letter. When working on a novel I keep an alphabetical list of the characters, and I avoid multiple names which begin with the same letter.

Recently, during November, I began a first draft of a new novel scheduled to be published in the spring, which I’m titling “Planned Accidents.” This book will be episode two of the Arthur Mitchell Mysteries. Book one was Casino Robbery. I quickly discovered I had created two characters both named Howard, one in each book. Howard number two had to be renamed so that I don’t confuse readers who have read book one. I’m now convinced that I need to maintain a master list of characters for all the novels in a given series.

Avoid names that are gender confused.

Some names can either a male or a female. I’ve noticed a disturbing trend among some authors to use nicknames that shorten the character’s name. The protagonist’s name is Rhonda, but on the next page, people are talking about Ron. Ron is dating Dan though I can’t tell from the context if Dan is short for Daniel or Daniela.

Avoid names that readily call up a particular image.

Watch out for creating a bridge playing protagonist named Donald and then having to write a paragraph in which Donald bids both trumps and no trumps. Calling a boy wizard Harry Porter is a terrible idea. While it may feel like a shortcut to use a name that readily conjures up the image you’re looking for, using these kinds of names create inauthentic, cardboard characters.

Avoid names that sound too much like a real person.

Whenever I write a villain for a novel, after creating their name, I do a quick web search. I don’t know that I’ll catch every problem, but I don’t want to write an evil villain and accidentally use the name of a candidate who is currently running for political office. I also avoid names that are too close to recognizable historical figures or sports figures.

Avoid racial and ethnic stereotypes.

Have you’ve ever picked up a spy novel and noticed that all the characters have either German or Russian names? Do all the stories about organized crime appear to be filled with Italian surnames?

Avoid names that are hard to pronounce.

In this millennium a great many people are doing their “reading” by listening to audiobooks. I discovered from my family’s nightly reading aloud session, that some names look great on the page, easy to recognize. But it’s very frustrating to keep encountering words that are difficult to pronounce. I think writers should consider what their characters names will sound like when spoken aloud when choosing those names.

So, what are the solutions to all these naming problems?

  1. Maintain a master list of characters for your novel or series and don’t repeat similar sounding names.
  2. I often create the name first and then write the description and biography of that person. If you’ve already cast the character, it can be challenging to find the name that fits them.
  3. If you create a new name, do a web search to make sure you haven’t selected the name of a prominent person in some other country. Also, avoid creating names that have a negative meaning in some language you are not familiar with.

To create names, I use several sources.

Behind the name is helpful for finding first names. You can look at lists by gender, ethnic origin or merely browse the complete list, looking for a name that appeals to you. I’m currently working on an outline for a fantasy book, my first try at writing fantasy because the characters will have connections with medieval Europe I’m looking at various Old English and Scandinavian names for my characters.

For last names, I use a related website Surnames; behind the name.

Another useful resource comes from the census department. You can look at the top first names by the decade of birth. Here’s the link to the list of the top names from the 1880s.

Sometimes I mashed names up.

In the past, surnames were often created by taking the father’s first name and adding an ending. I created unique new names for some of my characters, by taking the first name from one ethnicity and combining it with an ending from a different nationality. Back in the 1970s a lot of parents were creating unique names for their children by altering the spelling or combining two first names. I do the same thing for some of my characters last names.

Any other ideas on how to create the perfect name for a fictional character?

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Three David Joel Miller Books are available now!

Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Casino Robbery is a novel about a man with PTSD who must cope with his symptoms to solve a mystery and create a new life.

SasquatchWandering through a hole in time, they encounter Sasquatch. Can they survive? The guests had come to Meditation Mountain to find themselves. Trapped in the Menhirs during a sudden desert storm, two guests move through a porthole in time and encounter long extinct monsters. They want to get back to their own time, but the Sasquatch intends to kill them.

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For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse, and Co-occurring disorders see my Facebook author’s page, davidjoelmillerwriter. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com.