"Writing a book is the art of listening to oneself."-Brad Cameron

Friday, December 28, 2012

Guest Blog by Wodke Hawkinson

I am excited to introduce co-authors, PJ Hawkinson and Karen Wodke. Wodke Hawkinson is the name under which K. Wodke and P.J. Hawkinson produce their co-authored works. Each has published a solo work. This will be a two part guest blog with the second post on January 11th.  Make sure to check back then! With that, here is Wodke Hawkinson:

The Three C’s of Collaboration

A lot of elements go into a successful co-writing experience. But there are three basic considerations that will apply to almost any type of writing collaboration.


When working with a writing partner, compatibility is very important, not only between writing styles but also in regard to your personalities, your work ethic, your expectations and goals, and your approaches to conflict resolution.

We are fortunate to have been friends long before we became co-authors, so a large part of the compatibility question was already decided. Before starting on our first novel, we did some writing exercises to determine if we could work well together in that area. We also discussed expectations and found that we both want the best possible end product, regardless of how many revisions it takes. We have similar dedication to the process of writing and we share a desire to work through any disagreements.

Even though we have known each other for years, there was still a lot of very necessary discussion on these points. For writers thinking of partnering we would suggest detailed dialogue with your potential partner(s) to clarify these issues. How do you each feel about revisions? Can you take criticism? How many words/pages do you feel should be written per day? How many words should a finished book contain? How will you resolve disagreements about plots, characters, sentence structure, etc.? How will you divide the work on each project?

The more compatible you are on these points before you start, the smoother your writing partnership will go.


This seems like a no-brainer, but it can surprise you how much different your viewpoint is from your co-author’s. For instance, when writing our second novel we assumed we had pretty much the same idea of how a particular house would look. When it came time to write the scenes, we were surprised to learn we each had wildly differing images in mind. This experience taught us it’s a good idea to decide as much as possible in advance of writing the first page. Of course, not everything can be decided ahead of time because the writing process is a fluid thing and often changes are made mid-story, but much can be determined at the beginning.

How to we accomplish this? Pictures help. We find photos on the internet of what our characters look like. We also use pictures as a starting point for certain structures. Even animals. Those pictures never make their way into our books; they are for our private use only. Diagrams and maps are useful tools as well. For instance, the Guju bird in our novel Tangerine is loosely based on a white peacock; and before finishing Betrayed we knew exactly how Lance’s cabin was laid out because we had already drawn it.

We also find it beneficial to describe our characters, just for our own information, well in advance of starting the story. We need to know what their personalities are, their histories, their attitudes, their approaches to situations, their habits, their flaws, their positive qualities.

The bottom line is, never assume you and your co-writer have the same idea in mind. That said, do we always get all the bases covered? No, of course not. There are still times when something will crop up and we’ll be surprised at each other’s perspective. Then at least one of us has to reconfigure her mental outlook, but often we end up somewhere between our individual visions.


Ego has no place in writing. Confidence, yes. Ego, no. If you are so married to your work that you refuse to make changes, working with a writing partner may not be the right move for you. Keep in mind that the ultimate goal in your writing is to produce the best possible end result. If something will make your project better, then it’s worth considering.

For us, there is a lot of compromise, and it’s surprisingly easy to do. For instance, one of us wanted a character of ours to have scars and the other did not like the idea. In a separate story, one of us wanted a character’s wife to be a baker, but the other didn’t think it necessary to include her livelihood. A trade ensued. We kept the part about the baker and eliminated the scars. This was an agreement we could both live with. Often if one of us has a cherished line of dialogue or other element we wish to keep in the story, the other will acquiesce. Then the next time around, the one who previously yielded will prevail. It’s a balance.

There will be times when no compromise is acceptable. Our best advice for those times involves three things. Number one; be ready to make your case for why you want a certain element in the story. Back it up with good reasons. Number two; be willing to listen as your partner makes his/her case. Ask questions and sincerely make an effort to see the other’s point of view. Be willing to give the matter careful consideration. And number three; know when you need to take a break from each other. It might be just a several hours or possibly even a couple of days before you can come together again and resolve the issue.
Here are the links to Wodke Hawkinson and their works:
Reader & Fellow Indie Authors site: http://findagoodbooktoread.com/
Twitter ID:@WodkeHawkinson
Tangerine - Romance and intrigue in a future where space travel is commonplace and aliens a part of everyday life.
Betrayed - Brooklyn is taken captive during a botched carjacking. And so her nightmare begins.
Betrayed  - Alternate Ending - Written especially for readers of Betrayed, this publication begins at chapter 49 of the original novel and takes the story in a completely different direction.
*Make sure to check back for the rest of this blog post on January 11th.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Guest Blog by Vanna Smythe

I would like to welcome our guest blogger and author for this week, Vanna Smythe. 

Vanna Smythe is the author of Protector, the first book in the Anniversary of the Veil fantasy series. She has been writing creatively since her early teens, though one could say her creative writing efforts started long before that. While still in kindergarten, she once tore up a library book to make alphabet soup, and has been fascinated with what words can do, the pictures and worlds they can create, ever since. Book two of the Anniversary of the Veil series, Decision Maker, is due out in Autumn, 2012.
Will Love Restore the Natural Balance of Things?

Protector (Anniversary of the Veil, Book One) is based on two things: twin souls and the energy of love.  The belief in twin souls, that is, a soul mate in the form of your one true love, existing somewhere in the world and pulling you towards them relentlessly and ceaselessly, is the underlying theme of Protector, and the entire Anniversary of the Veil series. Only, in this world that I created, the energy released when two twin souls find each other is used for purposes that are not altogether enjoyable for the pair.

In my world, for centuries, Joinings of such strong love, and the energy they release, have been used to build bridges and tall buildings, stem the flow of rivers, even change the duration and force of seasons. One thousand years ago, energy from one such pair was used to separate the world in half by a barrier only a select few can cross. On one side of this barrier, or Veil as it is called, they have continued with the forced Joinings, while on the other side, the practice was eradicated. This was achieved mainly through the means of keeping the people ignorant and under the complete control of the Priesthood. The priests rule the realm from the shadows. Among other things, they also decide who can marry whom, so as to prevent any natural Joinings of love from occurring.

Protector takes place at a time when the fate of this barrier must be judged. The decision of whether the Veil should continue to stand, or if it is time to let the world be whole again, must now be made.

Princess Issiyanna is one of a pair, called to her other half, her twin soul. She is ignorant of her true purpose, steered to go along and find her love, not knowing that a Joining waits at the end of her journey. Unbeknown to her, she is loved from a distance by Protector Kiyarran, a soldier assigned as her bodyguard and the one whose role, whose decision, could decide the fate of all.

How long can a world exist where something as natural as the energy of love, is twisted and used for artificial purposes? Will love prevail and restore the natural balance of things? What price must be paid? Answers to all these questions, and more wait at the end of the Anniversary of the Veil series.

Here are the links for Vanna Smythe and her work:

Website and Blog: www.vannasmythe.com
Twitter: @Vanna_Smythe
Facebook: www.facebook.com/VannaSmytheAuthor
Protector (Anniversary of the Veil, Book 1) on Amazon: http://amzn.to/xLusPP

Friday, December 14, 2012

Loki's Children: The Abode of Hel

Featured on my blog site http://zekeproperchronicles.blogspot.com/ on November 12, I posted an article I titled “The Binding of Fenrir”. In the article, I related the Norse myth that describes the tale of Fenrir, the illegitimate son of Loki, and his imprisonment by the Norse gods. In my upcoming novel, The Gates of Asgard, Book 3 in The Zeke Proper Chronicles, Fenrir becomes an integral character. Within the novel, a very brief mention is made of his sister, also an illegitimate offspring of Loki, and her tragic demise. In this article, I hope to expand on that story.

Loki, the mischievous, imp-like god of Norse myth, was anything but faithful when it came to his marriage vow. Once married to, but not content with, Sigyn, Loki often left so he could travel to Jotunheim to be with the giantess Angrboda. An unfortunate result of their clandestine adventures was a daughter they named Hel. Even in a crowd of women, Hel’s looks would likely single her out. Her face, neck, shoulders, arms, and back, they were all pink. However, from her hips down, every inch of Hel’s skin looked decayed and greenish-black. Aside from that, Hel’s demeanor was nothing short of bleak. Her expression was always the same: glum and miserable. When the gods discovered that Loki had fathered three children, among them this hideous daughter, Hel, they sought advice from the Norns at the Well of Urd, and advice they got.

“She is the daughter of evil…Expect nothing from her but the most terrible…she will harm you and imperil you.”

Odin, taking one look at Hel, hurled her out of Asgard. He threw her into the mist and darkness of Niflheim, the world beneath the worlds. As she fell, Odin decreed that she should look after the dead, all of those who died in the nine worlds from illness or old age. Hel, upon finding herself in this bleak and depressing world, set out to make a home for herself. She began by constructing a huge wall around a massive estate. Within she built her hall, Eljudnir, positioned behind a set of colossal, ominous looking gates. To assist in her function as custodian of the dead, Hel employed Ganglati and Ganglot, both of whom moved so slowly it was difficult to tell whether they were moving or not.

The realm of the dead became a place of gloom and swirling mists. Its halls are packed with the dead who feed at the table of Hel whose plate is Hunger and whose knife is Famine. They sleep in Hel’s bed, which is Sick, and the bed hangings are Glimmering Misfortune.

Such is the dwelling of Hel. An abode fit for a repugnant creature? Or the prison of an unfortunate soul sired by evil?
-Brad Cameron

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Holiday Special

I wanted to let all of you know that now through January 4th, Book One, Odin's Light and Book Two, The Serpent's Ship of The Zeke Proper Chronicles are only $0.99 on eBook on Amazon.

Here is the link: http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Ddigital-text&field-keywords=odins+light

If you haven't already, check them out and please write a review when finished. I look forward to reading your feedback!

Also, here is a look at the next few weeks:

December 20th: I will be featuring author, Vanna Smythe, on my blog. Make sure to come back and check it out.

January 4th: Guest Blog! I will be featured on Ciara Ballintyne's blog, http://www.blog.ciaraballintyne.com/ Make sure to hop on over to her blog to read thatvas well.

January 25th- "Bards and Brews" I will be doing a reading and signing at Primrose in Hillsboro, OR. 7-9pm

This Friday, I will have a new blog posted.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Guest Blog by Ben Woodard

I am excited to introduce Ben Woodard as this week's guest blogger! Here is some information about Ben:

A spellbinding storyteller of high adventure, Ben has walked the Great Wall of China, hiked in Tibet, and climbed to 18,000 feet on Mt. Everest. And recently learned to surf in Hawaii. This book sprang from stories family members told him about growing up in Shakertown, Kentucky. Tales of lost gold and river caves, and of adventure. He began writing for children in 2008 and has completed picture books, middle grade and young adult stories.

Boys and Books

I grew up almost living in the local library. Reading was my escape and the library was my portal. I loved boys adventure stories and have been amazed at the reports that say boys don't read. Some articles have said that they do read, but not many novels. They like magazines, comic books and some nonfiction, especially if it’s gross or violent. But why not novels? Everybody loves a good story. Maybe the type of story is the reason for so many reluctant readers. We do know boys gravitate toward some books.  The Wimpy Kid series, Harry Potter, and Percy Jackson are favorites. There are others, but the numbers are limited, especially for teens and young adult boys.

Today, most books for older kids are girl oriented, a complete reversal of what publishing was like when I was a young reader. Then, most writers were male, and agents and editors were male. There were girl books, but books for boys prevailed. I believe that the change to a female run publishing industry, at least in the lower echelons, is good. Girls now have tons of books to read about strong girl characters written for them by women, and that’s a change in the right direction. The problem is that boys now have less books that are specifically for them, and there are fewer male writers. The boys also have fewer adult males as role models for reading. Single moms are raising many of our boys and the traditional female jobs of teachers and librarians are still mostly women.

However, to me, the main problem is story. There aren’t enough fiction stories in the marketplace that appeal to boys. The publishers seemed to think that a boy book is one that deals with bodily functions, and so we get “fart” books. And while some of those are well written and funny, I think we underestimate boys. As the Harry Potter books demonstrated, boys will read great stories. But many of the popular boy books are paranormal. What about realistic fiction like I read as a kid? There are some adventure books similar to that, but there needs to be more.

So I decided to write the kind of stories I remembered. The result is A Stairway To Danger, the first in a series. More edgy than what I read, maybe The Hardy Boys on steroids. It's probably PG. Some mild cursing and violence. Nothing too terrible, but there are guns and dead bodies. But the whole purpose was to offer boys a book with nonstop action and, what I hope is the authentic interaction between boys. While there is teenage angst, it is limited to one of the boys and is based on something that happened in his past. The story doesn’t dwell on the boys feelings, and many of the descriptions are minimal. The book is mostly about the story.

A Stairway To Danger is self published and here’s why. I talked to several editors and agents and they all said it would be a tough sell to publishers. Mostly because it is a historical, realistic fiction book with two boys as the main characters. Not much demand for that. One editor recommended that I add ghosts and/or time travel. I understand, but that’s not what I want to write. I grew up reading realistic fiction like the Hardy Boys and the Rick Brant series. I wanted to write books like that, although updated for today's boys. The Stairway To Danger is the first. It does have a strong girl character, but it is a boy book. Will I sell many? Probably not. The editors know their market. But I have to try.

My model for the book was my favorite series as a boy, the Rick Brant Science Adventure Books. The first book was written right after World War II and continued until the late sixties. The stories were exciting with great villains, but the key was the interplay between the two boys. I remember laughing at their antics and running to one of my parents to tell them about it. I loved the way they kidded each other, and yet, when they were in trouble (in every book, of course), they worked together, each using their skills to defeat the bad guys. Male bonding at its best. I still have the books and still enjoy reading them, but now I see the sexism and racism that was prevalent at the time they were written. Something my stories won’t have, although they will deal with the situation of women and African Americans in 1923.

Some of the Rick Brant books are out of copyright and can be downloaded. Look for The Caves Of Fear. And there is one book in the series called, you guessed it, Stairway To Danger. There are other references to the old series’ sprinkled throughout my book.

I hope all parents will encourage their children to read—both girls and boys, but especially boys who are reluctant readers. Start them with whatever they will read, comic books, “fart” books or magazines. Then, ease them into novels. Don’t forget the classics, Treasure Island, Robinson Crusoe, and The Count of Monte Cristo.  Many of these are free as eBooks. And please have them check out my books. I’d love to know what they think.

Ben Woodard

Link to A Stairway To Danger: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00AGESBT2
Link to my website: http://www.booksbyben.com