Fiction that explores the monsters and strangers among us.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Meet Jennifer Hawkins

Jennifer Hawkins is a fifteen-year-old sophomore this year at Lincoln High School in Wheaton, Illinois. For this interview, she wore a Christian t-shirt with extremely small, tight shorts. She has long, straight brunette hair and fat ruby lips and high cheek bones. A bit on the skinny side but tall, Jennifer has a light brown birthmark splotch on her left thigh. The spot has the shape of a map of Italy with the boot facing the wrong way. There is no mistaking the sweet, soft voice of Jennifer Hawkins or the shade of her dark green eyes and her rosy, high cheekbones.

Jennifer, how are you today?
Okay, I guess. You know, it’s a nice day out. I wore my shorty to school.

What’s it like in high school?
It’s the best. I’m like a sophomore this year so I’m hip to what’s going on and it’s, you know, I get to hang with the cool kids.

So do you have a boyfriend?
My over protective parents don’t allow me to date yet so no.

But you like someone in particular, right?
I don’t have a boyfriend. I told you I can’t date yet. Ask me that question next year.

So you’re not into boys yet?
Didn’t say that, did I? Boys are hot, especially upper classmen, like juniors and seniors. Seniors are really mature, you know what I mean? They get it when it comes to what a girl likes and they all have their own cars. When I’m old enough to date, I’ll only date seniors.

So if you can’t date until next year, are you scouting this year’s juniors?
Scouting? I’m not above checking out a boy’s bottom, but I’m like a good girl. A Christian. No I don’t think about boys. Well, maybe once in a while if I meet a hot one. You know, good looking. I’m not talking about hopping in bed hot. I just mean good looking, attractive. Dynamite buns.

Anyone in particular?
I have my eye on a boy or two, but like I said, no dating this year. I don’t want to date. My parents are right. You start dating too soon and the girl ends up pregnant or broken hearted. I want to wait. See, I have my chastity ring. I’m waiting for marriage. And I’m going to college, so boys can wait.

Care to name any names of hot boys in the junior class who might be on your checkout list for next year?
What’s your hang up with boys? Why do you care who I like. You’re a little old to be asking so many boy questions. What are you, a perv or what?

Sorry. You know how it is when you write a novel. You have to write about people you know and so I want to learn what I can about you including your likes and dislikes.
Can’t you just wait to find out like everybody else? Write the damn story and see for yourself who I like. Sorry, I said damn. It just slipped out.

Okay, let’s move on. It’s just that, you know, I’m talking to the boys and your name did come up.
Really? Who?

Oh, I get it. You can’t tell me. But so tell me anyway. No, let me guess. I bet it was either Bryan Ganarski or Gilbert Armstrong. I spotted them checking me out at youth group last week.

Do they qualify as hot?
One of them does. Don’t know about the other.


Curious to learn more about Jennifer Hawkins?


Tuesday, August 26, 2014

What Makes a Good Character Good?

Writing style and a good story arc keep you reading a novel, but what really holds your interest is a compelling main character. You relate to the main character as a new found friend with a story to tell, one that is well worth hearing. What is it about the main character that makes him or her so interesting?

The main character of a novel has a personality that you can relate to, whether he’s a hard-boiled private eye or she’s a sweet teenager falling in love for the first time. The main character has a certain look that attracts you. She may be a pretty brunette. Or he may be a hawk-nosed, scar-faced battler.

Beyond personality and looks, the main character has a huge problem which makes the story interesting. And the problem has two facets to it like two sides of a coin. Side one is the problem you see right away as a reader. Will that skinny teenage girl pull the trigger and end the main character’s life on page one? With one wild event after another, is he going crazy?

Side two is the hidden or secret problem you don’t know about until later in the story. Is he a coward? What does he do about his cowardice? How does he learn to become brave or does he?

What do you find compelling about the main characters in the stories you read or write?

Speaking of characters…


Thursday, August 21, 2014

How to Find a Writing Class

This question came up in the writer’s group I lead: “What’s a good way to find writing classes other than week-long retreats in Montana? Something closer to home would help.”

If you live in Montana, this is less of a problem, isn’t it? For us Midwesterners, here are some ways to learn more about the craft of writing closer to home:

Chicago Writers Conference: An excellent writers conference for all genres. Learn, mix, mingle and enjoy. This conference will open the door for you into the Chicago writing world. Registration open now for the October conference.
Write to Publish Conference: This one is focused on the Christian market, but the classes are excellent.
American Christian Fiction Writers: This is an online Christian writer’s group that offers the best online writing resources I’ve seen. And it’s one-stop shopping for all your writing needs. It’s Christian, but the access to learning opportunities may make joining worth it for non-Christians who don’t mind the Christian market focus. You’ll meet a lot of Christian romance writers along with writers of every genre.
Join a critique group: Members will educate you when you screw up. Your local library may have a list. Also check with your local book store if one still exists in your area. If you can’t find a writers group, start one. See next item for one way to start one.
Community College Writing or Lit Classes: Get friendly with the profs. Invite them to lunch, breakfast or coffee meetups. I’ve heard of writing classes evolving into writing groups so if you can’t find a group, you may be able to start one with the other members of your local writing or lit class.
Join the association for your genre: There is a professional association related to all genres. Some are better than others. Most focus on serving the established professionals who are conventionally published. Find them through a Google search. An example is Mystery Writers of America.
Volunteer Beta Reader: Online publications sometimes need readers to go through the over supply of submissions they can’t possibly get to. Seek out publications serving the genre you write in. This service may lead to contacts and education opportunities.
Teach: Developing a lesson and teaching it is the best way to retain your learning of the topic. Use the above resources to gain the info you need.

Try a Google search if you simply want to learn more about a specific writing topic, like “What’s a plot arc?” You’ll discover blog posts and articles dealing with the topic. Since writers like to blog about writing topics, you may find bloggers you want to follow.

Speaking of genre fiction, I have three novels out that cross horror, thriller and historical fiction genres. For my next novel, I combined all three into one story. I also blended in sci fi/fantasy and romance so it's a mishmash of genres that add up to Snpgrdxz...

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Move the Plot Forward

For those times you find yourself unable to push down the pesky keys, move the plot forward. You know what has to come next in your story, so describe your ensuing scene. Begin with a description of the location and then move on to dialogue. Don’t worry about the quality of your writing. All you want to do at this point is put the facts down on your computer. You will come back later and polish your writing.

Here’s another way to write out of a block, especially if you don’t really know what comes next in your story. Push two of your characters out on stage and get them talking to each other. Treat the scene like a blind date where the conversation is always awkward at first. Within a few lines, the dialogue will turn golden as your characters become comfortable. If you need to describe the next scene before the dialogue can begin, then start writing about the location as I mentioned earlier in this article.

When blocked, don’t worry about the poetry of your words or the logic of your description or even if you are covering all the bases in your description. Just begin listing what has to be mentioned, but do so in sentence form. The idea is to focus on the facts of the story. Putting down the facts will lead you to write them in your natural story-telling style.

The key to successfully completing a novel is to keep on writing no matter what. Don’t stop because you feel blocked. Deny the existence of writer’s block. I do. Press the keys no matter what.

Comments welcome, even if you feel blocked. In the meantime, Snpgrdxz...

Thursday, August 14, 2014

How to Get Back on Track

Are you trapped in a never-ending break from your writing? Writers occasionally need to recharge the batteries that power creativity. Here's a trick for rebooting your writing activity.

Commit to a schedule
Commit to a set time every day when you will sit and write. Make it specific like 7 to 7:15 am. Set aside 15 minutes to begin. Stay with it for at least a month even if most days you sit and stare. Sitting and staring is part of the writing process. So is clicking keys on a keyboard when you have nothing to write about just to see what gets clicked.

When I mention the 15-minute solution in my presentations, someone will ask if it’s okay to write longer than 15 minutes. I tell them that is the whole idea of setting aside 15 minutes. You can’t write for such a short amount of time. But the brief schedule will allow you to start. It's easier to obligate yourself to 15 minutes of writing than staring for a couple of hours. With such a brief commitment, you’ll find it easier to press the keys on your keyboard.

Next time we’ll discuss another way to stay on top of your writing.

In the meantime: Snpgrdxz.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Looking for Inspiration?

You are pumping out words by the truckload when you suddenly find yourself with the valve shut off. Some writers call this “Writer’s Block.” Others just think of it as a lack of motivation. Here is something to think about that may help you get your fingers dancing across the keyboard again.

Commit to the process
Take a long walk or whatever else you do when you want to think about yourself as a writer. Is writing important to you? Two truths in life for you to consider:

We buy what we really, truly want. And we do so without regard to cost or budget. There are limits of course, but for items up to about $100, we purchase what we want and say we can’t afford it for the things that are not important to us.

We do what we truly want to do. And we do so without regard to the amount of time it takes. Is there something else you enjoy more or are more passionate about that you do? Writing requires a time commitment. Take time to sit and stare at the keyboard even if you can't think of a thing to write.

If you are not putting in the time it takes to write your story, ask yourself if writing is what you truly want to do. We all need a break on occasion to recharge our writing energies, juices, enthusiasm, etc. If you are on break, don’t worry about it. Breaks can last from a few days to a few months. But at some point, you have to get back on track.

Next time we’ll deal with ways to get back on track.

Thought for the day: Snpgrdxz.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Brains, Guts and Money

Success in any human endeavor requires brains, guts and money. Throw in a bit of luck if you want along with a dollop of right place, right time. There you have it, the things that separate the folks in those big suburban houses and the rest of us. Let’s take these one at a time.

Brains aren’t about pure intelligence which usually is just an accumulation of facts combined with a razor sharp memory. True brains involve creativity, both kinds. One type of creative mind discovers a better way to build a bridge or cure cancer. The other type produces great art like poetry, paintings or music. It's about problem solving versus considering the possibilities.

Intestinal fortitude, visceral experience, gut-wrenching – use whatever term pleases you for those times when you simply have to reach deep inside for the strength to act decisively with an unusual solution. Writers need the guts to pursue their calling despite the low likelihood of financial success. All artists face this dilemma. How do you sacrifice the time it takes to create art when the chance of actually selling stuff is so low? Maybe you should go back to college to become an engineer.

Speaking of no money, it takes a financial nest egg to fund a heavy duty marketing campaign for your next book. Should you keep your precious resources locked up in retirement savings and investments? Or should you pluck it down on an expensive PR counselor with no assurance of a return on your investment?

Brains, guts and money separates successful authors from the also rans. Go ahead and throw in a pound or two of luck if you wish. I mentioned luck and right time, right place above. But if you think luck alone will put you on the best seller lists, forget about it.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

DVNC? Really?

I bring up DVNC as a too long setup to tell you about what I’ve been up to and why I haven’t posted in a while. The break from blogging started because I ran out of steam and new adventures for Jude Nerdworthy, at least for a while. I also was invited to help my son in his new business, a tech startup. Talk about brains, guts and money, consider starting a company from scratch.

Since tech startups have an upside that can run into the billions it’s usually recommended that you jump in with both feet whenever you are invited. You have to go for it when the upside is so enormous.

So I jumped in. And I am involved at the C-level. Awesome.

What did my son invent? Nothing less than the solution to all those nasty data breaches you have been reading about almost daily since Snowden went to Russia and Target lost credit card data by the millions of cards. You can learn more about our solution, something called DVNC, by visiting one of our websites, either the company one of the technology user site. DVNC fixes what encryption alone can’t.

Building a company from scratch is fun, creative but time consuming. We appear to be on the right track generating interest from lots of potential customers. I haven’t been avoiding writing, of course, while engaged in the new business. I have squeezed out enough time to finish the first three novels in my new sci/fi fantasy series Snpgrdxz. More about that later.