Tuesday, September 30, 2014

A Writer Tries to Meditate

Ommmm, I am thinking of nothing, nothing at all.

Ooh, what if in the next chapter, Lily finds a secret passageway from the New York Stock Exchange to Sy's Pizza and it's littered with pizza boxes...

No, no, stop that. I am supposed to clear my mind of all thoughts.

The Mind Clearer. Wouldn't that make a great title for a novel? The Mind Clearer: When you know too much, she comes to the rescue. Oh, not just a novel, that's definitely a movie too. Claire Danes or Meryl Streep? Either way, it would be fabulous...

Come on, brain, work with me here! Ommmm, I am present in this moment.

No, not the present moment. It would have to be set in the future. But not in a dark depressing future like in Mad Max. Why does everyone think the future is going to be filled with people who don't shower or comb their hair?The Mind Clearer would definitely be into hygiene...

I am bringing my thoughts back in when they stray... ommmmm....

It's like my thoughts are sheep. Black sheep. No, pink; wait, fuschia  Fuschia sheep who always want to do their own thing, but are very colorful about it. One sheep, two sheep, white sheep, fuschia sheep. Wait, I wonder if anyone has ever thought of updating all of Dr. Seuss's books with a feminist bent. I am Pam, Pam I am, my doctor said I should eat some yams. I don't like hot-flashing in a box, I don't like hot-flashing with a fox...

Breathe in. Breathe out. Breathe in...

...to a paper bag. Who came up with the idea that breathing into a paper bag could help calm someone down. What other kind of bags did they try first? Duffels, garment, Ziploc? I need to look that up when I'm done meditating.

We're done? Already? But I'm not feeling peaceful yet. Namaste Bitches. Now that's a great title.

Leigh Anne Jasheway is lousy at meditating, but great at... oh, look! A squirrel! Read her funny books or follow her on Twitter for the jokes she writes when she's supposed to be working.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Your Favorite Color Memory


I have a weakness for interior design magazines, and House Beautiful is one of my favorites for its fresh, original designs and thought-provoking articles. The September 2014 issue is all about color:

On the last page of the magazine, the editors ask eight designers and artists a provocative question:  "What's your favorite color memory?" 

Reading the answers naturally led this writer to think about my own memories through the frame of color, and I decided to write down the first couple that came to mind. I tried to write quickly without over-thinking my responses. 

Here's the first: 

Photo:  jcookfisher

It's September, and I'm in the woods under a dense stand of aspen trees with the man who will later become my husband. It's one of our early dates and we're both nervous. Above us are the piercing, cerulean blue skies of the high country and a million shimmering yellow aspen leaves. He pulls me into an embrace and we stand like that for a long time, blissfully enveloped in a glow of golden sunshine.

Later, I will recall that hug under the autumn sky as the moment we fell in love.

Here's another:

Photo: nathanmac87
I'm fifteen, and my sister and I have traveled to Sag Harbor in Long Island, New York to visit our father. It's been a year since he and Mom divorced, and we're excited to be there. We're also a little shy about seeing him with his girlfriend in the context of his new life. 

Dad has rented a small church that he uses as his art studio. The interior walls and pews have been removed from the church, leaving a large, light-filled room with just a few pieces of furniture and a bed. Spread on a round table, we discover a large collection of beach glass that Dad and Linda have gathered from a year of beach walks. It's the first time my sister or I have seen the soft, muted colors of glass sandblasted by the sea:  once-clear glass frosted translucent white, green and brown pieces that were probably once wine and beer bottles, and less common blues, yellows and reds. We are instantly captivated. 

Each day during our vacation, the four of us walk the beach and hunt for glass to add to the collection. It turns out to be the activity that makes everything less awkward, and I can't see a piece of beach glass today without being transported back to that summer in Sag Harbor. 

How about you? When you think of a memory beginning from the standpoint of color, what rises in your mind? I'd LOVE to hear your stories and comments.

Eliza Cross is the author of seven books including her latest, 101 Things To Do With a Pickle, just released by Gibbs Smith. She blogs at HappySimpleLiving.com and ButteryChardonnay.com and is the founder of the bacon enthusiast society BENSA, which—unlike Mensa—welcomes members of all intelligence levels. She is currently working on her second novel.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Prose&Cons: 5 Steps to Overcome Adversity

Prose&Cons: 5 Steps to Overcome Adversity: One of my clients shared a story where she was driving home from a birthday party with her son. It was raining and dark outside so she was e...

5 Steps to Overcome Adversity

by Dr. Suzana E. Flores

One of my clients shared a story where she was driving home from a birthday party with her son. It was raining and dark outside so she was especially alert of the road ahead of her. She reached over to turn on the radio, when all of a sudden a severed head landed on her windshield. She and her son screamed “their heads off” so to speak, while she swerved all over the road before running into a light pole. Luckily, they were not seriously physically harmed. She later discovered that a motorcyclist was driving well over the speed limit on the overpass, hit the concrete guardrail, causing his body to propel several feet forward and head to sever. This unfortunate motorcyclist’s head just happened to land on my client's windshield.

Within two weeks following this event, my client experienced a miscarriage, her eldest brother died, and her sister was diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer. My client initially presented with symptoms commonly associated with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD): Hypervigilance, reliving the traumatic event as if it were happening again (flashbacks), panic attacks, anxiety, feeling emotionally numb, and trouble sleeping. She also experienced severe depression.

Despite her symptoms, she insisted on getting back to work as soon as possible and made her best efforts to focus all her energy on her son. When we discussed her amazing resiliency, she said that she was always able to “get through really bad stuff” fairly quickly and move on.

What is resiliency and why do some people seem to bounce back from traumas with relative ease – even thriving after negative events while others have a significantly harder time overcoming traumatic events?

Friday, September 26, 2014

Write Tighter, Write Smarter

As a homeschooled writer, I'd learned to improve my craft one layer at a time.

My first WIP was a stack of notebooks, pages of endless prose that I'd written one summer. I wrote it for fun, an imaginary escape, without the least care for grammar or structure or plot. It was a technical wreck but I wasn't worried--because no one but me would ever read it.

My second…that was different. I knew I wanted to share that story. I also knew I had a lot to learn about writing. I began to amass my writer's library and scoured the internet for articles and discussions and workshops, all in the hopes of improving my writing. I spent years learning how to be a better writer--and will spend many more years learning, too.

Recently, I came across those notebooks of my first attempts at writing a novel and was shocked to see what my style was like when I wrote it eight years ago. I think the aspect that struck me the most was how much I rambled.

It wasn't that I wrote endless chapters of setting or backstory or dialogue. My problem was that I wrote the way I spoke--and I spoke with a lot of extra words.

Extra Words

Extra words make your sentences flimsy. A reader wants the heart of the story--and extra words get in the way. Readers crave hooks and action and a thrilling pace but extra words can cause the story to stumble.

My WIP had a lot of extra words. When I read back through those pages, I found myself skimming. That's the ultimate sign that I lost my audience--and my audience was me. How bad is that?

Tighten Those Lines

When I started homeschooling myself, I'd picked up loads of tips on how to improve the mechanics of my writing. Without realizing it, I began to write smarter because I wrote tighter. Of course, I was learning as I went--and applied most of my new skills through editing.

Editing is a technique that should always be done in layers--sentence, paragraph, scene, and story. You can tighten your writing at each of these layers, resulting in better craft and a better story.

Sentence Level

Extra words like to hide in sentences, adding bulk without substance. You can use the "find" function on your word processor to hunt out those words and eliminate them. The biggest culprits? Words such as really, very, and just, to name a few. You don't need them.

And not just single words-- entire categories such as adverbs and adjectives will loosen your sentences. If you need to enhance a noun or a verb, it may mean you didn't pick the right word in the first place. Find a stronger word and kick the enhancers to the curb.

Another tip to tighten your sentences? Skip the obvious. "He put his hat on his head." Unless he often puts his hat on a different body part, you can skip telling us where he put it.

You can also skip the obvious by eliminating things like "she could see" or "I heard"--because you follow those phrases with whatever is seen and heard. And gerunds? You probably don't need them--if your character grabs a gun and has no intention of swinging it like a club, you can drop the "to shoot" that might follow.

Paragraph Level

When looking to tighten a paragraph, I look for sections that feel like telling and not showing. I'll add a line or two that shows the action and then go back to eliminate the telling part.

Okay, you may be thinking, how can that be tighter? You're adding words!

Yes, I am…but they are healthy, vibrant words, packed with wholesome story goodness. I eliminated the empty calorie words. End result? Better writing and a stronger story.

Example: I could tell she didn't believe me.

The fix: With a sharp shake of her head, she jabbed a finger into my chest. "You do this every time! I tell you that I'm finally happy, and you concoct some stupid story about why I shouldn't be."

Yep, more words…but now the reader sees the disbelief and doesn't have to take the narrator's word for it. I added action and dialogue. That original line "I could tell she didn't believe me" is now fluff to be eliminated. Bye bye, extra words.

Scene Level

Sometimes your sentences are tight but your scenes aren't. Maybe you've got too much going on.

You can tighten your scenes by watching for unnecessary elements--any character or prop or intention or action that doesn't move the scene forward can be removed because they are distractions.

What if one of the characters wasn't present? Is someone worrying about an issue that is keeping the scene from being streamlined? If you can change a character's thoughts or attitude before the scene occurs, would you ultimately improve the flow of the scene itself?

Watch for elements that seem stagnant or present obstacles to your action. Removing them will tighten your scenes and your story.

Sometimes the element is an entire scene. Try deleting it and see what it does to improve the story.

Story Level

Take a step back and think about your story as a whole. How can you tighten it?

List your plotline and sub-plotlines. Do you have sub-plots that do little to move your story forward? If the little stories don't contribute to the plot or to the character's growth, you may be hindering the big story.  It's time to send those extra words on their way.

And the characters that are window-dressing? Send them home. Extra people mean extra words. If they don't work the story, there isn't a reason to keep them around.

Make the Cut

You may be intimidated by the prospect of cutting scenes and storylines and even characters from your story because of the damage it will do to your word count. Keep in mind that readers only want the words worth reading. You can always go back and add to the real story, using strong, vibrant language.

And think of it this way--you'll save an agent or editor the trouble of asking you to revise those same issues. Extra words keep your work from attaining "shelf-ready status". Be brave and do what's best for your story. You and your story and your writing craft will be all the better for it.

(Image courtesy of nkzs.)

Ash Krafton is a speculative fiction writer who, despite having a Time Turner under her couch and three different sonic screwdrivers in her purse, still encounters difficulty with time management. Visit Ash at www.ashkrafton.com for news on her urban fantasy series The Books of the Demimonde (Pink Narcissus Press) or stop by www.ash-krafton.blogspot.com . Ash is also a contributing editor at the QueryTracker blog.  .

Thursday, September 25, 2014

I am supposed to have a writing process? Who knew?

Before I start making fun of myself (talk about a wealth of material) I want to take a moment to thank Susan Clayton-Goldner for inviting me to follow her on this blog tour about the writing process.  For those of you who don't know about Susan, let me say that her writing speaks for itself, but consider this: there is something about the way Susan writes that slices through the facade of everyday life to expose the fragile skeleton of human existence. And who doesn't want to see what's on the inside? If you are looking for a new author or a new perspective, click on the link for Susan's Website.

What am I working on? 

I get this question all the time, usually from my patients who want to know why I'm not in my office all the time.  The answer: I am currently working on Absolution, the first book of the Jesuit thriller series. In today's crowded and competitive thriller market, a debut author has to make sure all aspects of the book--plot, pacing, dialogue, narrative and characters--are all in good form. For those of us many trying break in to the ranks of Daniel Silva, Steve Berry, Preston Child, Olin Steinhauer et al, the breakthrough novel has to have it all, and from the wonderful comments I received in my first go-round (thanks to all the editors who took the time to write them) I needed to spend some time developing two of the characters from Absolution.  So, that is what I have been doing, under the careful guidance of an editor from my literary agent's office who specializes in character development. 

This is usually where someone (again, one of my pesky patients) asks why I don't just say the hell with it and publish the damn thing myself. The truth is, Absolution was a good book when Liz Kracht, my literary agent (more on her later), sent me an offer of representation. After multiple revisions and edits and cuts and additions, however, it is a damn good book. When I get through this latest round of work, during which those two characters have already become as real and 3-dimensional as my wife sitting next to me, I see that Absolution is going to be a hot damn good book. And then, after that, when I get a book contract, there will be another round of revising (this time under the supervision of the publishing editor) and then and only then will Absolution reach its full potential, a real hot damn good book--and to me it's worth the time and energy. 

How does my work differ from others in the same genre?

I write thrillers. One of the many cool aspects of the genre is its diversity: there are international thrillers, political, medical, legal, and religious thrillers, young adult thrillers (Stalking Sapphire by Mia Thompson), ecothrillers, spy thrillers (such as The Africa Contract by Art Kerns), historical thrillers (Lincoln's Bodyguard by Tj Turner), and techno-thrillers (3 Lies by Helen Hanson), psychological and suspense thrillers (Saving Laura by Jim Satterfield). But, despite the diversity, there is a uniformity about the genre, a uniformity that stems from the frequent choice of main character. How many thrillers have you read in which the MC was a rogue MI5 operative with a license to kill, or a defrocked CIA agent hardened by years on the job and a drinking problem, or an ex-Navy Seal whose wife was killed by the terrorist he failed to track down? There is a lot of merit to these main characters, but they have been done before, and if there is one thing I learned from my first--infamously unsuccessful--attempt to garner a literary agent, it is that a debut author like myself has to to bring something new to the table. 

I wanted to create a different kind of protagonist, one who experiences more than just the usual kind of conflict. Perhaps it is because of my Jesuit education; maybe it is the strong influence Graham Greene had on me; or, quite possibly, it was just a visit from serendipity; whatever was the case (I favor the latter) I eventually stumbled upon the MC for whom I had been searching, Marco Venetti, forty-year old Jesuit priest from Monterosso, Italy. And then I thrust him into a violent and belligerent world for which he was poorly prepared, just to see what happened. The best part of it--and this goes back to the writing process which I have yet to address--is that I did not know what was going to happen. I have found through hard experience that my writing suffers when I have too tight a window to write through; I do much better when I begin with a specific character and let things develop from there. In the case of Marco Venetti and Absolution, the events surrounding the character unfolded easily, which speaks, I think, to the uniqueness and great possibility of Marco's character. (And yes, I do think about him as if he is a real person.)

Why do I write what I do?

Ten years ago, I was reading one of the many hundreds of thrillers I have read when I set the book down and picked up a pencil and pad and started writing my own. It occurred to me then that I could do a better job of writing a thriller, and so I set out to prove it. (Nothing like making a life changing decision on whim.) I learned three things in the next few years: 1) writing a good novel is a lot harder than I thought; 2) creating characters that pull the reader into the story is even harder; and 3) writing a novel is a better test of your imagination and ability to tell a story than it is your grammar and vocabulary skills--and thank heaven for that.
I also learned that I didn't like to write; I needed to write. I came to understand the difference in these two things after I shelved my first manuscript after 3 years of writing, revising and unsuccessful searching for a literary agent. Silly me, I thought I had escaped unscathed, free to conduct the rest of my life as I saw fit. Ha! Within six months, much to my wife's dismay, I was back at it again, writing scenes about a character who would eventually become Marco Venetti, SJ.

I recently turned 50, an anniversary marking the tenth year since I picked up an old college note pad I found underneath my couch on a Saturday night (I was looking for a tennis ball my dog had failed to retrieve) and started my 2nd novel (I wrote my first one in the eight and ninth grades.) After ten years I have finally figured out (talk about a slow learner) what it is that makes a good story. It is good characters, plain and simple. Fluid prose, genuine dialogue, non-stop action, fast pacing, and a good premise all help, but without characters who make the reader care, all these things fall flat. And that is why I write what I do, because I have created a dozen or so characters who are real and interesting people, and I want to see what happens to them as the Jesuit thriller series unfolds.

What is my writing process?

There's supposed to be a process? Who knew? I would like to say that the last few lines are in jest but the simple truth is that they are not. Like most writers (Steven King and James Patterson not included) I have a regular job (my wife and I are family doctors with our own practice.) We also have four children and a Cairn Terrier named Hermione who demands four walks a day, and a pet fish named Molly. It would be great to have a week to write without interruption, but writing time does not take precedence over the patient bleeding out in room 4, or my daughter's soccer game, or taking Herm for a hike.

The good thing, though, is that writing is an emotional business. The stronger the emotion the author feels, the better the writing. So, I have learned to harness my life, to use a long day at work to flesh out a character more fully, to absorb the ups and downs of family life so as to bring conflict alive on paper.

I guess I do have a process after all: I live, observe, and then I write. When my father gave me an 'eehhhh' in regards to the book I started in the 8th grade, he gave me this advice: Go live your life, Peter, and then you'll have something to say. 

When I say observe, I don't mean making a mental note of an unusual shade of nail polish or the color of the blazer that just walked past (although you can bet I do that as well.) I am talking about the feeling in my stomach when I have to deliver bad news to a patient or the look on my daughter's face when she feels like she let me down. Those are the things that make a great manuscript, and those are the things that I like to download into my memory to slap down on the keyboard when the time is right.

Who's Next?

Sue Coletta is a crime fiction author from New Hampshire, and a proud member of Prose&Cons and Sisters in Crime. If you want to look into the mind of a crime writer, click on this link for Susan's blog, or tune in to the next post when Susan will talk about her writing process--hopefully with a lot fewer semicolons, em dashes and parentheses


Peter Hogenkamp is a physician and author living in Rutland, Vermont. Peter's writing credits include ABSOLUTION, the first book of The Jesuit thriller series; THE LAZARUS MANUSCRIPT, a stand-alone medical thriller; and The Intern, a serialized novel based loosely on Peter's internship, published bi-weekly on #Wattpad. Peter can be found on his Author Website as well as his personal blog, PeterHogenkampWrites, where he writes about most anything. Peter is the founder and editor of Prose&Cons; a frequent contributor and reviewer at ReadWave; the founder and moderator of groups on Facebook (The Library), Google+ (Fiction Writers Anonymous), and LinkedIn (Tweets, Novels and Blogs); and a Beta-reader at StoryShelter. Peter tweets--against the wishes of his wife and four children--at @phogenkampvt and @theprosecons. He can be reached at peter@peterhogenkamp.com or through his literary agent (Liz Kracht of Kimberely Cameron & Associates) at liz@kimberleycameron.com.


Monday, September 22, 2014

Raising Your Hand On The Witness Stand -- Why we do this might surprise you.

I just read an interesting article by Leslie Budewitz, an award-winning author and a member of Sisters In Crime, an organization I am proud to belong to. The information was so fascinating I just had to share it with you.
A court reporter or a bailiff asks a witness to raise his/her right hand, then asks, “Do you swear or affirm that the testimony you are about to give is the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth?”
How much did this trial disgust you?
The custom of raising our hands has a very grisly origin. Scholars traced this back to the seventeenth century before written record keeping was widespread. The judge imposed harsh sentences back then. If you were found guilty of theft, they would brand a "T" on your right hand. theft
If you were found guilty of manslaughter, they branded the letter M. The letter F for felony, and so forth.Jefferson_Slave-Image3
To show the court, jury, audience that you had never been committed of a crime the defendant would raise their right hand to show that they had not been branded. If a defendant had committed a heinous crime in the past, the sentence imposed by the judge would be much harsher, serving a longer sentence behind bars, or worse. At the very least another branding would surely follow.
From there the practice of raising your hand extended to juries and witnesses-- and even to casual interactions. As in "I swear," to indicate something truly happened.
Some folks balked at the conventional oath, requiring them to “swear” that their testimony or statements were true. For this reason, many courts now use the language “Do you swear, or affirm, that the testimony you are about to give is true?” In some courts, witnesses or jurors may need to request permission to attest or affirm. A shrinking minority of courts require a stated reason to affirm rather than swear. 
This language change began with the Quakers. Quakers balked at the conventional oath, requiring them to “swear” that their testimony or statements were true, mainly for religious reasons. Quakers found Biblical support in the Sermon on the Mount, where Jesus said, “Let your yes be yes, and your no be no.” (Matthew 5:37) The idea is that one’s veracity should be judged based on reputation for truthfulness. But of course, in modern society, we often don’t know each other or the reputation of the witness in the box.
Fun fact for all you crime writers out there: "Dock" is the proper term for the witness stand.
I swear, I will never again look at the witness dock in the same way. How about you?
Sue Coletta is a crime fiction author, a proud member of Sisters In Crime, a wife, mother to two adorable furry kids, and a bragging grandmother to a one-year-old baby girl. Sue has authored three novels, Timber Point, Silent Betrayal and A Strangled Rose. You can reach Sue by email at: suecoletta@crimewriterblog.com. To learn more about her books go to: http://www.crimewriterblog.com.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

My Writing Process

The next stop on our blog tour is Grants Pass, Oregon—a small town nestled on the banks of the Rogue River.  It’s a picturesque place surrounded by the Siskiyou and Cascade Mountain ranges—an ideal setting for the writing life to unfold.

I’ve been passed the torch for this “My Writing Process” blog by the very talented Helen Hanson, author of three technothrillers including 3 LIES, #1 on Amazon’s Best Technothrillers list. All that fame, and she's a really nice person, too. Check out Helen’s work here: http://www.helenhanson.com.

What am I working on? 

While I have been writing fiction for more than a decade, Wellstone Press published my first collection of Poems, A Question of Mortality, earlier this summer.  As most of you know, poetry rarely makes any money. It is a labor of love—a passion that rises out of a need to understand more about our lives and how we choose to live them.

While giving public readings and actively marketing the poetry collection, I’ve been rewriting my novel, Redemption Lake. Liz Kracht, of Kimberly Cameron Agency, is representing this novel. Our first series of submissions brought 7 rejections. I’ve read each one of them carefully, trying to find a common denominator and understand the reasons for the rejections. Once I had a firm handle on the problem, I asked Liz for the opportunity to rewrite before our second round of submissions. 

It’s been a fascinating process and I’ve had to revise a character I thought I knew well, digging deeper into what makes him uniquely Matthew Garrison. Matt is a seventeen-year-old boy, a poet, who is in love with Crystal Reynolds, a thirty-three year old woman and the mother of Matt’s best friend.  After the worst night of his life, Matt visits Crystal, finally tells her the truth about his feelings. They drink too many beers and before the night is over, they have sex. Matt is happier than he’s ever been. Crystal is horrified by what they’ve done and insists this can never happen again. She takes Matt’s keys and makes him sleep off the beer before driving. When he awakens, he finds Crystal murdered. 

I’m nearly finished this rewrite and I think I’ve addressed the problem of editors not connecting with Matt as deeply as they wanted to. Unraveling a character to get to his core emotions is not always easy—because in doing so, writers are forced to confront many of our own demons.

How does my work differ from others in its genre?

I write family dramas, often encased in a mystery:

A seventeen-year-old, estranged from her father and stepmother, is babysitting her two-year-old half sister, Emily, when she is kidnapped from Ashland’s Lithia Park playground.

A teenager who murders her rapist father, disappears, renames and reinvents herself. Twenty years later, she is living a good life as the wife of a medical school dean, when their five year-old son is diagnosed with a chemotherapy-resistant leukemia and needs a bone-marrow transplant to survive. She must go back to rural Kentucky, find her birth family,  and face murder charges in an attempt to save her son.

Unlike a typical mystery, where the primary concern is to find the perpetrator, I am equally concerned with the family dynamics and how tragedy unravels each life and forces the character to confront their inner demons and grow in ways they didn’t believe possible.

Why do I write what I do? 

At a recent PNWC (Pacific Northwest Writer’s Conference) I listened to Bob Dugoni give a keynote address in which he asked us to write down some of the things that have defined us as individuals.

I am defined by my family of origin, by growing up with four brothers near the Delaware River and by having a father crippled by a grenade during World War II. Though I was neither conceived nor born at the time of his injury, I was and continue to be defined by it in some important ways. Two of my brothers died at thirty-nine. One a suicide, the other a victim of a hit and run accident. My mother was a southerner, with a beautiful singing voice. I believe much of my poetry arose from the sound of her voice filling places that would otherwise be dark. I am defined by my two children and the many lessons they taught me about life and what it means to be human. 

Perhaps the first requirement for good writing is some kind of truth—a connection between what is being written about and the author’s own experience in the world of fact, dream and imagination. I was grateful for Bob Dugoni’s exercise and pleased to realize I am writing what I was born to write—Family Dramas. 

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

My Writing Process Tour – Now at Engaging Blogs Across the Planet

Reprinted with permission from Me because it first ran at my blog:
I spent many years in manufacturing, so when I hear the term writing process, I envision a Dr. Suess-esque machine with a Zuzz turning a crank at one end and books plopping out at the other.  But it’s a finer, more subtle effort to write a novel.  And it takes a lot more work.  Ask my friend Shawn Hopkins.  We met when he compiled a thriller sampler called MYSTERY THRILLS & SPILLS. He hosted the previous stop on this tour and writes detail-rich stories of supernatural suspense, ancient conspiracy, espionage, and mystery.  Check out Shawn’s work here.
What am I working on?
This past year held several surprises for me. Most good, some really crappy.  My first novel, 3 LIES, hit #1 on Amazon’s Technothriller list, and I’m writing its sequel.  I’d planned to have it and at least one other novel completed by now, but I realized long ago, my sanity is of some value.  Use it or lose it.  Ever the optimist, I’ve decided to make the rest of this year stellar.
I’ve written two unrelated novels since I wrote 3 LIES, and it’s wasn’t a simple process to reacquaint myself with the details of my original story.  In part, because I write multi-threaded, multi-POV novels.  The main character of each thread needs to be heard and remembering what each of them said—exactly—is not one of my superpowers. So I needed to research my own book.
But now I understand why authors write series—beyond the lure of repeated sales.  I’d forgotten how much I like the people I’ve created, even the dastards.  Each has a set of qualities that welled from my experience, from the people I’ve encountered in my walk.  Some of them, I missed.  Now that we’re sharing pages again, I want to stay close.
How does my work differ from others in its genre?
I’m a student of theater.  When I write, I want the reader to know what the character is thinking.  He sat in a chair, but why that chair?  Was it closer to the lone window in the room?  Did it over a superior vantage point?  Was it comfortable enough to soothe an aching back?
Motivation.  I make those same choices every time I select a chair.  So should the actors in my novel.
Another distinction of my work is my use of technology.  I write thrillers about tech-savvy people who use tools unheard of in years past.  But none of the main characters are of the Uber-doober variety.  Smart, but they make mistakes, and they all have a sense of humor.  Another reason we get along so well.
Why do I write what I do?
Intrigue and mystery are the twin lakes of any good bit of fiction.  These are my swimming holes.  It doesn’t matter what genre categorizes a novel, without these waters running through the story, it’s lifeless.  Since I’m a purist, I go straight to the source: the thriller.  Thrillers are the aquifer of creative writing.
How does my writing process work?
Think shampoo instructions.  Write, edit, repeat.
Writing is a recursive process, culling the working words from the ones that make me think: meh.  Even my own opinion of them changes, so I need to let them breathe awhile before deciding their fate. Then, I need to hear them aloud.  I spared the world the iniquity of—Chester gestured—after it assaulted my ear.
As for the day-to-day, I need enough of a road map to find my next few stops.  When I initially outline too heavily, I tend to back track when I think of some thread that I prefer.  But I want to improve my word count. To that end, I plan to spend more upfront time contemplating the storyline, so I can blast toward the finish. So far, this is purely theory, but I’ve often been called tenacious.  Or was it bullheaded?
Who's next?
Allow me to introduce you to Susan Clayton-Goldner whose stories and poetry have graced the pages of numerous literary journals and anthologies.  Her family dramas typically revolve around a mystery, and her poetry “…exposes emotion before it reaches the intellect.”  Plus, she swims with dolphins.  Talent and game.  A winning combination.
Helen Hanson works in the high-tech sector, which informs her geeky thrillers. According to The Seattle Post-Intelligencer, she wrote # 1 bestselling technothriller, 3 LIES, with “an artistry that is hard to deny.”
Currently, she’s writing a sequel to 3 LIES. You can find her thrillers in the usual places. And you can find her at HelenHanson.com coddling a goblet of red.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Where Authors Go

Winds of Winter, coming....????
Several years ago, Neil Gaiman wrote (a now famed) blog post in which he uttered the phrase, “George R.R. Martin is not your bitch.” The post was targeted at Martin fans who were complaining online that Martin owed it to them to hurry-up and finish his A Song of Ice and Fire series. Gaiman’s message was loud and clear: Martin is entitled to go about his life however he pleases and doesn't owe readers anything. As Gaiman elucidated in his blog, authors are people too, each with her or his own writing process.

And sometimes life gets in the way…

Between my own recent experiences, and the authors in the field I've spoken to, I know that Gaiman is absolutely correct—sometimes life simply gets in the way of writing. Acclaimed science fiction author Bruce McAllister, whom I interviewed for Black Gate magazine earlier this year, is an extreme example. He was unable to write for ten years because of a misdiagnosed illness (but thankfully is back with a vengeance!). For steampunk progenitor James P. Blaylock, teaching creative writing at Chapman University and directing the creative writing conservatory at the Orange County School of Arts  (OCSA) left little time (and creative energy) for writing new books; his recent streak of productivity is attributable, at least in part, to retiring from his post at OCSA and taking a semester-long sabbatical at Chapman.

And what’s my excuse? Why the two-month disappearance from Prose & Cons? Why did I solicit volunteer beta readers on Facebook for my sequel to Dreamwielder back in early August and then fail to get the manuscript to them? The answer isn't exciting.

Authors, just like anyone else, fall victim to life’s unexpected turns.

Sometimes, just when you think you've got it all figured out, the simple move into a new rental place you planned turns out to not be so simple after all. No one is willing to rent a place to a person with two huge dogs, even if they are gentle giants, and when you do find a place, it will be tiny, meaning you have to get rid of half your earthly possessions, and it turns out you’re more of a hoarder than you thought. Sometimes the “part-time” summer teaching work you pick up turns out to be a 60-hour/week affair, and on top of the move, you haven’t taken a day off in three months, and your right eye is perpetually bloodshot, twitching, probably with some sort of zombie virus. Sometimes on top of all this—on top of the security deposits for the new place and the moving costs—one of your dogs will break a molar and require surgery to extract the tooth, and your fiancĂ©’s cat will get plugged up like a cement mixer and require expensive laxatives, and your car will inexplicably spring a water leak in the cast aluminum throttle body, and all that extra money you thought you were making is gone before you have it. And sometimes, all the work, all the bullshit fate throws at you, doesn't make you upset, because you know next month you’ll be getting married to someone who makes it all worth while.

It’s nothing to complain about. It’s simply life, but damn if it doesn’t make it finishing a book that is already 99.9% done hard.

On one hand, I’m nowhere on the same scale as Neil Gaiman or George R.R. Martin, but on the other hand, it’s encouraging to know I’m very much on the same scale, because just like them—just like everyone reading this blog post—I’m human too.

Garrett Calcaterra is an author of dark speculative fiction. His newest book, Dreamwielder, is an epic fantasy novel from Diversion Books. He is currently working on the sequel to Dreamwielder and an unrelated sci-fi novel. Learn more at www.garrettcalcaterra.com

5 greatest lyrics of all time.

Wake the neighbors, phone the kids: it has finally been done. Someone (me) after all these years, has put together a list of the best song lyrics ever (rest assured that none belong to Wierd Al.) Now, I know what you are thinking: What qualifications do I have to make such a compilation? The truth is that I have very few, but that's what makes the internet go, people like me making grandiose and unsubstantiated claims (heh, it works for Fox News!) On the other hand, neither is this like getting tips on conflict resolution from Ray Rice or parenting advice from Adrian Peterson <winces>  as I do have some credibility--meaning that I have an iTunes account and access to Google.

Ok, it's time. Here they are, complete with the videos, the 5 best song lyrics of all time: (and no, for the sake of originality, I did not include Stairway to Heaven, Imagine or The Sounds of Silence.)

Someone Like You, Van Morrison
I've been searching a long time
For someone exactly like you
Ive been traveling all around the world
Waiting for you to come through
Someone like you
Make it all worth while
Someone like you
Keeps me satisfied
Someone exactly like you

(If you play this song on a date and you still get the Heisman, consider the Monastery, the Convent, or lifelong Celibacy as a realistic option.)

 Round Here, The Counting Crows

Step out the front door like a ghost into the fog
Where no one notices the contrast of white on white
And in between the moon and you, angels get a better view
Of the crumbling difference between wrong and right

(Looks like Adam Duritz has let himself go a little.)

 Thunder Road, The Boss

Don't run back inside
Darling you know just what I'm here for
So you're scared and you're thinking
That maybe we ain't that young anymore
Show a little faith there's magic in the night
You ain't a beauty but hey you're alright
Oh and that's alright with me

source: http://www.lyricsondemand.com/b/brucespringsteenlyrics/thunderroadlyrics.html

(If you live in my neighborhood and hear what you think is a rabid wolf with a bad case of the croup on a Saturday night, it is just me using my Karaoke machine trying to imitate The Boss.)
One, U2
Is it getting better?
Or do you feel the same?
Will it make it easier on you now?
You got someone to blame

You say, one love, one life
When it's one need in the night
One love, we get to share it
Leaves you baby if you don't care for it

(I will admit that the key to appreciating these lyrics is to pretend they weren't written by one of the most overtly narcissistic people of our age.)

  The Space Between
The space between the tears we cry
Is the laughter keeps us coming back for more
The space between the wicked lies we tell
And hope to keep safe from the pain

Read more: Dave Matthews Band - The Space Between Lyrics | MetroLyrics

Peter Hogenkamp is a physician and author living in Rutland, Vermont. Peter's writing credits include ABSOLUTION, the first book of The Jesuit thriller series; THE LAZARUS MANUSCRIPT, a stand-alone medical thriller; and The Intern, a serialized novel based loosely on Peter's internship, published bi-weekly on #Wattpad. Peter can be found on his Author Website as well as his personal blog, PeterHogenkampWrites, where he writes about most anything. Peter is the founder and editor of Prose&Cons; a frequent contributor and reviewer at ReadWave; the founder and moderator of groups on Facebook (The Library), Google+ (Fiction Writers Anonymous), and LinkedIn (Tweets, Novels and Blogs); and a Beta-reader at StoryShelter. Peter tweets--against the wishes of his wife and four children--at @phogenkampvt and @theprosecons. He can be reached at peter@peterhogenkamp.com or through his literary agent (Liz Kracht of Kimberely Cameron & Associates) at liz@kimberleycameron.com.