Monday, August 22, 2016

When Fictional Characters Come To Life

I try to keep my fictional characters as... well, fictional as possible.  It is the great rule of all writers.  Our characters are totally made up out of our heads and have nothing to do with the people we know and love.  We'd never write in someone we don't like and then kill them off.  That would be totally not cool.  And I'd NEVER write totally cool, butt kicking characters and have them look like someone I know.  That would be devastatingly horrible.
 **snort**  
Okay, I am lying.  The truth is that most of the characters I write about are people I know now or knew growing up.  ALL of the Puckerbush High School teacher's names are teachers I had in elementary, middle and high school.  Seeing as the majority of my characters are the folks I live with and are a part of my life, I want to introduce you to a few of them.  (that is if they agree to send me a picture of them and allow me to post it)
In The Warrior's Return, Ian meets Marvin Sanders.  Dr. Sanders is a veterinary in Puckerbush who takes care of the town's menagerie of four legged furry friends.  Dr. Sanders name was poached from a real Dr. Sanders I worked for while I was in college.  It was a tough job cleaning up after puking cats and poopy dogs, but it paid the bills.
The personality and physical description of Marvin Sanders came from this guy: 

This is Les Bassett.  
Should you have the privilege of meeting this man, you should know that he has an amazing sense of humor.  He is a straight talking fellow with a lot of fight in him.  He is the guy who fist bumps my son at church, works hard and is one heck of a loyal father, grandfather and friend.  He'd give you the shirt off his back, arrives early to church and stays late to help clean up.  
As I was creating Marvin, I did a mental flip through all the people I knew that would be that rock of support for Ian as he went through tough times. Marvin needed to be kind with a core of steel.  I needed someone older with the life experience to give Ian advice and yet wise enough to stand back and let Ian make the final choice.  
As I talked to his daughter and wife (that another thing writers never reveal...we may be just "chatting" with you but really we are filing away information like crazy) it was clear that the man for the job, the rock and support was Les.
It's just an added bonus that Les is also a fan of my books.  I'd love to add a spoiler and tell you what happens to Marvin in The Cursed Dagger, but I'm not.  You're going to have to read it.
Thanks, Les!!
Next time: Meet Corbin's doppleganger!

Friday, July 15, 2016

THE PRICE OF RESEARCH

I write a lot of fighting into my books.  I don't know if it is a result of being the only female in a house full of all males or if I just have a not-so-deeply buried thirst for blood, guts and a solid right hook.

Regardless, IAN QUICKSILVER is the last prince of Bankhir and with that comes some serious responsibility.  After all, The Warriors of Bankhir are the fighters for the galaxy.  You need a war won?  The warriors will be there to help you fight it.  It's their job.  However, when I very first started putting together what makes the Warriors of Bankhir so special, I realized pretty darn quick that I probably needed to know how to fight.  If I was going to write about professional fighters, I must know how that works, why it works and so on.

I very naively signed up for a mixed martial arts class.  What better place to learn hand to hand combat and weapons in a place that teaches a wide smattering of techniques?  The first two months were a scream.  Super easy.  I didn't know what the big deal was in movies and books when the main character thinks it's so darn hard to learn. Then I learned a very important lesson: I broke my ankle.
There is great value in giving a warrior a weakness. It humanizes them, makes them more real and relatable.  Weaknesses are juicy details and stumbling blocks.  But most of all, as an author, I realized the power of pain.

It SUCKS.

Pain taught me that going up against a six foot one male twice my size has consequences.  It also taught me that it is wise to listen to gut feelings and internal warnings.  Mine was screaming off the hook that day and I very unwisely told it to go take a hike.  I also learned the difference in pain levels between a sprain and a break and the number of weeks/months it takes to recover.

Pain also made me stupid.

Mostly because I got right back on the mats at the dojo the second the doc cleared me to get off the crutches.  I also lost brain cells every day I kept training on an ankle that never healed in the first place.  But I was learning so much!  I didn't want to quit.

So maybe stupidity turned into determination somewhere along the way.

I learned how to ignore the pain and keep training.  There did come a point (a year after the fact) that I had had enough of the pain.  That's when an x-ray confirmed that, yes, I was in actuality just plain stupid and not determined after all.  Thats when I learned something new about being a warrior.

Surgery is not just something you go into smiling and come out of like a charm.

It knocked me off my feet for another six weeks and by golly it hurt!  But the research!  HOLY MOLY!!  Did you know that a bone fragment looks a whole lot like hard swiss cheese and the inside of your body is a lot like meat spaghetti sauce?!?!  I had my surgeon take pictures and boy was I glad he pulled through for me!  Healing skin has the consistency of a rubber balloon and stitches, deep into your skin, feels completely alien.  I also learned that you should never put a ziplock bag of ice on an elevated limb and then go to sleep.  That darn thing slipped off in the middle of the night and burst right into my crotch.  Ice water in the private parts is not a pleasant wake up call.  Trust me.

After surgery, I learned that I am very impatient.

I got out on the mats in a metal boot and kept going.  I sucked it up and kept fighting.  But I learned more than just pain from Martial Arts.  Research is a multifaceted beast.  I found friends just as crazy as I was. They hit harder when they've had a bad day.  Their personal lives began showing in their gloves and through their kicks.  They got a little harder, faster and stung a little longer than on other better days.  There were no tears.  No.  These new friends got it all out through their punches.
I don't mind being a punching bag for their bad day.  This is why...

Something changes between two people when they have trained together.  Blood, sweat and bruises have turned out to be an unbreakable compound for cementing relationships in a way I hadn't experienced previously.  I've heard about the "brotherhood" when men fight together, but it wasn't until I experienced it (on a very small scale) that I realized how intense that bond is.  Trust me when I say, there is a reason we keep coming back and it's not because we love being a lab rat for choke holds and shoulder dislocating arm-bars.

My Warriors began to change on the page and it was because my research began to change me in real life.

I test for red belt soon.  This means I am not far off from full black belt and I am counting down the months and days. Some days I wonder what on Earth I was thinking, putting my mind and body through such torture.  The answer is simple:
There isn't much I wouldn't do in the name of research.

Now if I could just write a book about chocolate...



OTHER AWESOME THINGS I LEARNED FROM EXTENSIVE RESEARCH:  A blunt weapon struck into the body at the right speed will STILL cut.  Breaking pine boards hurt really bad if you do it wrong.  There are some grappling positions that are so awkward, it's good to have a partner who can laugh off putting their arms between your legs (among other things).  Otherwise it just feels like you're cheating on your significant other.


Wednesday, June 8, 2016

DEAR READERS...

Eat Chocolate.

Life is hard.  You’ll have bills, no job, and your car will break down.  It happens.  Breathe.  Whether it happens today or in ten years you will face the unthinkable. Trust me, it’s not as bad as you think it is. 

Deal with crap now.  Some things get worse with time.  Leaky roofs, broken arms and rusty pipes (especially the metaphorical ones) don’t magically go away if you ignore them.  Sunny days don’t last forever.  If they did, you’d get bored.

Floss.  When you get older, you’ll thank me for that one.

Hug your parents.  They’ve been through hell.  Then hug your siblings even though they made you go through hell.  Don’t forget to hug yourself.  Not for real.  That’d be weird.  But give yourself a break.  You’re worth it.

Smile.

You might be in a hurry, dealing with a breakup or just haven’t screwed your face on right for the day.  A smile fixes everything.  Also, it makes you look good.  And feel good.  So, you’d better floss. If they don’t smile back, who cares?  You flossed.

Make sure your kids hate you once and a while.  They’ll thank you for it.  But not until way later when they’ve got their own kids.

Say thank you.  And please.  Hold in that snarky comment. Speaking your mind lasts five minutes.  Regrets last a lifetime. 

Be kind.  Exercise.  Eat your greens.  Work hard.  Take a vacation.  Stop stressing out.

But most of all….


Eat Chocolate.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

The Author Conundrum

When I first started writing, I corked out a mystery/thriller in two months (it’ll NEVER see the light of day) that was in all intents and purposes fit for human consumption.  It had no swearing and no sex because, lets face it, I am as vanilla as it gets.  My first bit of advice on this book was from three well meaning and well known agents who said the same thing, “books written for adults will need adult content”.

In my vanilla mind, I thought that this meant a bit more action and maybe some “darn” and “dang it” thrown in.  I allow you to laugh because I was naive and I am not ashamed of it.  I scrapped the book, practiced writing a few more books which all failed miserably (four full length books to be exact).  All of which seemed to get the same exact response as my first writing attempt: More adult content.

Books six, seven and eight, I really went out on a limb and managed to put in the words “D@%$” and “S$%#” in them.  They were romances so I called up my writing buddy, told her which pages I needed a little steam in and she helped me find the words even though it made my toes curl.  Books seven and eight got picked up by a fairly reputable publisher.  This was going to be my big break!

I got some interesting notes back from the editor.  She wanted a kiss on either page 45 or 60, heavy second and third base action going on by page 100 and full on sex by page 145.  To add to that, she mentioned that I’d needed the F-word peppered into the novel because the F-word is was adults say when they’re angry.  Oh, and if I could, my characters needed to be obsessed with each other (her words, not mine).

Um…say what?

I got off the phone with the editor and called my writing buddy.  I was in a pickle.  I’d never been the kind of writer that wrote that kind of stuff and now, I was being asked to put it in.  What would happen if I said no?  What if I did put it in my books?  Then I was faced with this exact thought: What kind of writer am I?

Even though my writer buddy thought that I might be able to squeak by with minimal swearing additions and maybe a “behind closed doors” sex scene, I wasn’t so sure I could write it in, no matter how vague I was.  While still on the phone, I happened to walk past the mirror in front entranceway of my house.  Again, I was faced with a hard question as I stared myself down: What kind of writer am I?

Well, I got off the phone, called my editor and told her I don’t write in sex scenes, or heavy obsessive infatuation, or F-words.  That’s just not the kind of stuff I write.

And then I got fired.

That was the end of my contract, my book was pulled from the publishing lineup and I was once again left with no publisher and a whole lot of books going nowhere.  It was hard to be in that position.  In retrospect, it was what kicked off the brainchild for Ian Quicksilver.  It ended well, but at the time it was a little devastating.

Fast forward three years where I am in the middle of Ian Quicksilver Book #2 edits, Book #3 is complete and the outline for book #4 is getting hashed out.  It looks as if all has turned up roses.  And yet, I found myself on the phone again with my writing buddy having the same discussion about what kind of author I am.  However, this time it wasn’t my writing on the line, it was another author wanting me to endorse her books.  My buddy reminded me gently that we’d already had this discussion before.  I already knew the answer, and I knew what I had to do.

So, let me put this out there so there is no confusion in the future.  I am the author who writes for kids.  I’ll make you laugh.  Maybe I’ll make you cry too.  You’ll get action and fights and good versus evil.  My villains all tend to end up looking like and sounding as awesome as Benedict Cumberbatch (weirdly enough.  Not sure how that happened, but it did) and my heroes are a mixture of Thor, Captain America and goofy teen boy.  They don’t swear.  You’ll NEVER get a sex scene out of me and the heroines are whiplash smart. 

That is the kind of writer I am.


Wednesday, April 6, 2016

BOOK REVIEW: Goodbye Forever By, Bonnie Hearn Hill




Goodbye Forever was a fascinating read.  It kept me on my toes from start to finish and I found myself captivated by the main character, Kit Doyle.  Kit was quite the complex character and her relationship with her husband Richard was equally complicated.

The band of kids bent on mayhem that Kit was investigating were of equal interest.  I found myself intrigued by their hierarchy of control.  For teenagers, Hill showed a much darker, near cult side to a group of young adults.  There is a nefarious psychologist involved who I wanted to reach through the page and smack frequently.  I know I am not setting this up very well, but I am not kidding when I say that it is better that you just buy the book and read it so you can have your own love/hate relationship with they characters.  Evil?  Yes, they are.  Selfish?  Yep, that too. 

Sorry, I got side tracked.  Back to Kit…

Kit’s goal was to rescue her Husband’s niece from this cult-like group, offering herself as sacrifice and becoming one of the disturbed kids.  There were times that I worried Kit would lose her humanity as she positioned herself deep within the group, but she did manage to remain true to herself and to the girls she was aiming to rescue. I’ll not ruin the ending, but I do have to say it goes out with a bang.  In fact, I’ll even add that the author is fully capable in exploring a wide range of emotions while reading.  Yes, you will laugh, cry, scream and everything in between.  It has caused some havoc in my house seeing as I am apparently quite vocal when I read.


Fair warning, however.  This book is not for the faint at heart or for lovers of light fiction and beach reads.  There is a decent amount of F-words and weightier topics are discussed.  Regardless, Ms. Hill is a talented writer and this second Kit Doyle installment was fascinating!



Bonnie Hearn Hill writes issue-driven suspense. A film based on one of her novels is currently in pre-production. GOODBYE FOREVER, the second in the Kit Doyle series will publish in January of 2016. IF ANYTHING SHOULD HAPPEN is her fourteenth novel.
To learn more about Bonnie, please visit her website.