Introducing Hope Ohlarik

Happy October, everyone!

As my blog approaches its third anniversary this month, I celebrate how lucky I am to be on PDMI Publishing, a publisher perfectly poised to fill a giant void left in the marketplace by the Big Five. A void that can only be filled by a company with a vision to see this need, and the resources to act on it. You’ll be seeing a lot of great things from PDMI in the months and years to come.

One of them is Hope Ohlarik.

She’s PDMI’s hidden gem, a poet who can take you to the darkest corners of your soul, then lift you up to joy.

Her poetry book Through Eyes Of Jaded Hope, cuts right into the darkest corners of the human soul. Not a light-hearted beach read, to be sure; but as she expresses it, Keep reading, keep going deeper, and deeper, maybe the answer you’ll find if you linger. The pains of our existence are never a casual read, but they are an essential one if we are to find the answers to our lives. Only our nadir can make us truly appreciate the simple joys of life. Hope guides you along the river Styx, then delivers you joy when you complete your crossing.

This insight into our real characters bodes very well indeed for Hope as she enters the world of fiction with her forthcoming PDMI novel “Broken.”

Her fearless hero Maria Daron will come to life in the pages. For those like Hope, with the gift of insight into what makes people real, are uniquely qualified to bring a real soul to fictional characters. And through the adventures of heroes like Maria Daron, we find the hero in ourselves.

Hope Ohlarik home page

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Interview with Jack Wendell

Time for me to try something new in the new year.
A character interview, a concept inspired by Joleene Naylor,
but written in my own style.

Spoiler Warning: This interview takes place between the end of “Vampire Syndrome” (book one) and the beginning of “Vampire Conspiracy” (book two).

Welcome, readers of the Vampire Syndrome blog. Today we are proud to feature an interview with Jack Wendell. Currently Jack is between novels one and two, flying in the Council of Thirteen Presidential Jet on his way to Romania to rescue his dear friend Zetania Vinescu from the alien Pure Vampires who kidnapped her in the last chapter of “Vampire Syndrome”. Accompanying Jack in the Gulfstream G550 are Damien Tepesh, Chief Venator of the United States region, and Jack’s new adoptive parents, Ronald and Diane Pepper.

***

Interviewer: Good evening, Mr. Wendell, I’m (redacted), official record-keeper of the Council Of Thirteen. So nice to meet you. (Interviewer and Jack shake hands)

Jack: Hey, wait a minute, how’d you get on this plane?

I: The same way you did, through the door.

J: How come I didn’t see you?

I: I’m Stacy Burnside’s co-pilot. I was in the cockpit until now.

J: Oh, okay.

I: Now let’s get down to business. Tell the Vampire world about yourself.

J: My name is Jack Wendell and I’m nineteen years old. A few months ago, I became a Vampire cause a girl named Janine Perrino got Vampire rabies and bit me.

I: Not the most pleasant way to become a Vampire… (chuckles)

J: Tell me about it! President Lilith told me most of us become vampires from sex.

I: Yes, indeed, sexual intercourse.

J: That’s how Damien and Lilith turned Coach Ron and Diane into Vampires.

I: Ah, yes, Ron and Diane Pepper. Ron was your Special Olympics coach until his recent recruitment into our community.

J: You call that a recruitment? They didn’t get much choice about it.

I: Well, more like drafted, I must admit. And how do you feel about Damien and Lilith turning the Peppers?

J: Why didn’t they ask me first before they did it?

(Damien interrupts): Lilly never was very good about asking people before she…

I: Uh, excuse me, Chief Venator, sir, I’m interviewing Jack here. For the Council record.

(Damien): My apologies. Carry on.

I: Okay, so Jack, let me re-phrase the question. Ron and Diane, now they’re Vampires: Is this good or bad?

J: Good, cause they’re my new family. I guess Lilith wanted to be my new mom, but it didn’t work out. She said she might not be the best mom for me.

I: Indeed, Damien and Lilith did seem to agree that they might not be the best candidates to be your new parents.

J: I love Coach Ron and Diane, and I’m so happy they’re my Dad and Mom now, but I’m scared we’re all gonna get hurt.

I: The Pures. 😈

J: That’s the bad thing. What if the Pures find out about us?

I: The Pures know about your new parents. They’ve been monitoring the Peppers’ cattle mutilation website with a stolen laptop that we’re monitoring.

J: I meant, when they find out Coach Ron and Diane are Vampires!

I: And working as Council investigators, I might add.

J: That’s not funny.

I: No humor intended, Mr. Wendell. We’re in a tough situation here. And you’re heading right into the eye of the storm.

J: But I’ve gotta rescue Zetania from the Pures!

I: Which will put you in grave danger…

J: I don’t care!

(Damien): Cluj Napoca Team has already surrounded the Pures’ hideout.

(Diane Pepper): Oh my, aren’t we confident, Damien?

(Damien): We’ll hit ’em after sunrise so they can’t come out of their cave chasing after Jack.

I: Excuse me, I’m trying to conduct an interview here!

(Damien and Diane, in unison): Sorry!

J: If I can get Zetania out of there, maybe she won’t declare war on the Pures.

I: Her number one enemy for 122 years? You’re quite an optimist, Jack.

J: I’m gonna talk her out of it.

I: Jack, I hate to play devil’s advocate here, but if the Pures killed Zetania, she wouldn’t be able to declare war on them.

J: But then all the rest of the human Vampires would want to kill the Pures cause they killed Zetania. There’d be a big war anyway.

I: Great point, Jack. I can see why Damien and Lilith accepted you into our community.

J: After Damien tried to kill me a couple of times.

(Damien laughs)

(Interviewer continues): And why are you so willing to risk your life to rescue Zetania, Jack?

J: She would do it for me. I know she would. Maybe if I save her, she won’t want to go to war with the Pures cause she knows how bad she could lose. If I get her out of there, she won’t want to be captured again. See?

I: Yes, actually, I do. If you’re right, that is. If Zetania doesn’t see your rescuing her as a golden opportunity to re-group the Romanian Vampires and…

J: Then I better talk her out of the war harder!

I: I wish you the best of luck with your mission, Jack. You’re gonna need it.

J: Thank you.

Music Soothes the Savage Characters

Music Soothes the Savage Characters
©April 6, 2011 by Daven Anderson

I’ve been using music (and song lyrics) for my “character building” exercises. Choose three songs that you think represent a particular character. The songs you pick can give you insights into your characters (and even yourself! ) that would not be obvious from any other approach.

Here’s a sample lyric from Devo’s Peek-A-Boo (©1982 Casale/Mothersbaugh), a song I picked for my character Jack:

If you cannot see it, you think it’s not there. It doesn’t work that way.

Jack is a vampire. When you consider that vampires are “hidden” from the normal world, this ostensibly simple lyric takes on a whole new relevance. Jack has become something the normal world “cannot see” and thinks is “not there.” Thus, the quoted lyric has far more meaning to Jack (and his kindred) than to the normal people Devo was admonishing for their lack of vision.

The 1973 Fleetwood Mac song Hypnotized (©1973 Bob Welch) would seem an obvious choice to represent my character Gl’Ag, who is of extraterrestrial descent.

Now it’s not a meaningless question to ask if they’ve been and gone
I remember a talk about North Carolina and a strange, strange pond
You see the sides were like glass, in the thick of a forest without a road
And if any man’s ever made that land, then I think it would’ve showed.

The readers’ perceptions of the character, the novel, and even the author can be dramatically widened by tying in the right song. The lyrical theme of Hypnotized is an obvious “tie-in” for an extraterrestrial-descent character. But the possible interpretations run much deeper. Does the author imply that Gl’Ag’s kind are responsible for the anomalous pond in the woods near Winston-Salem? Are their kind hiding in the “place down in Mexico, where a man can fly over mountains and hills?” Is their mothership the “something” that “flies by their window . . . out on that lawn . . . which is wide, at least half of a playing field?” Are his kind’s hypnotic powers why “what matters most is the feeling you get when you’re hypnotized”?

Connect the right song to your character, and you will find out what Aristotle meant when he said, “The whole is more than the sum of its parts.”

There’s a tendency for authors to view their choices in music as nothing of importance. Something to put on in the background as you type. A song quoted in your pages to spice up your story, at best. This couldn’t be more wrong. Are their choices obscure? Popular? Hackneyed (such as banjo music for a backwoods thriller)? Or do they even bother with music at all? Each of these reflect very different mind sets for both the authors and their stories.

The content of this post should make it clear that each of the songs on my playlist (in my novel’s appendix) is an exercise in character development and character building. Each song I selected says something important about a particular character and makes a comment about the character’s place in my story’s universe.

My writing is intended for those who look for the hidden truths and ask the deeper questions. Yes, I’m aware this is a heavily philosophical approach for a grocery store cashier writing a vampire book. 😉

Readers of my novel who research the lyrics and songs on my playlist will be rewarded with a unique insight into my characters and the novel’s universe. If I’m lucky, a reader or two will be able to make a connection to something I missed. I dream of the time when I can make one of my readers proud at my book signing when I tell them, “You are the first person who got my intended meaning.”

Of course, novels have to stand on their own merits. The connection with music outside the novel is intended for readers who wish to expand their understanding of my novel’s characters and universe. Which leads to my all-time favorite movie quote:

Some people can read War and Peace and come away thinking it’s a simple adventure story. Others can read the ingredients on a chewing gum wrapper and unlock the secrets of the universe.
Lex Luthor in “Superman” (1978)

Your novel has to stand on its own enough to satisfy those who take it simply for what it is. However, great novels should offer a universe of hidden meanings for the readers who wish to dig deeper.

Yes, Virginia, there is such a thing as “too much description”

Yes, Virginia, there is such a thing as “too much description”
©April 26, 2011 By: Daven Anderson

As writers, we are always told (pun intended) to “show, not tell.” We are supposed to give lavish, detailed descriptions of each and every detail of our characters’ surroundings.

Let me compose an example for you:

My thumb snapped the dry, ancient flint wheel of my tarnished, weather-beaten sterling silver vintage Zippo. The cascading sparks caressed the hissing jet of lighter fluid, setting off a deep blue flame that quickly transformed to a yellow glow matching the bulbs of the streetlights glimmering above. I drew the flame closer to the tiny tobacco leaves in my hand-rolled cigarette, watching them ignite to life in a multitude of burning red hues, ready to render the exquisite pleasure and satisfaction that can only come from inhaling nicotine.

Problem: Is this a realistic train of thought for your character? Does the example above move the story forward? Does it give you any insight into your character’s thoughts?

Here’s what a real-life character would actually think: “Clicked my lighter and took a drag. Nice night for a smoke.”

How about a more realistic, less bogged-down “dramatic embellishment” supplementary suffix to the above two sentences?

Nothing like my old Zippo. Always works through thick and thin. Too bad no one rolls their own smokes anymore, like I still do. Can’t stand those chemical-tasting white coffin nails.

There. Thirty-two words in four sentences. You get the Zippo lighter, the hand-rolled cigarette and how the character feels about them. Without the ninety-word bombast of my deliberately overstated first example.

If you use an excess level of description, not only do you bog down your story’s pace, you are actually taking away elements of the story that can and should be left to the readers’ imaginations.

Too many writers endeavor to describe every last detail of their characters’ world, at the expense of other story elements. I’ve read more than a few books where excess descriptions stop the story in its tracks like a deer caught in the glare of headlights. The characters were pushed so far into the background as to be almost non-existent. If I hadn’t read previous excerpts of these authors’ works, I would have had no clues regarding any of the characters’ motivations.

Many authors seek to create a movie in your mind. The impeccably crafted prose of the books mentioned above most certainly accomplishes that goal. But, I must ask, what is the greatest advantage a novel has over a movie? Being able to get inside a character’s mind.

My readers can imagine the inside of an interrogation room, but they can’t “imagine” the inner workings of my character. This is the reason why I focus on characters’ motivations, not about the rooms they happen to be in.

33 Of The Most Hilariously Terrible First Sentences In Literature History

Update August 2014: Kristen Lamb’s post, addressing WHY there is such a thing as “too much description”

Vampire Love: Thinking Outside The Coffin

Vampire Love: Thinking Outside The Coffin
©May 12, 2011 By: Daven Anderson

Love. The vampire genre is full of “love.” Bookstore shelves are on the brink of collapsing under the weight of an army of paranormal romance titles. Servers for e-books are filled with terabytes of bodice-ripping hunks with fangs.

And therein lies the genre’s biggest problem.

Vampires are, by definition, outsiders. Thus, their experiences of love should also diverge from the normal world. Their dealings with love should be the opposite of the usual “category romance with a sprinkling of paranormal seasoning.” This ceaseless flood of cloned paranormal romance degrades Dracula, debases Bathory, ultimately creating a horde of readers that will never touch the spine of a book with the word “vampire” in the title. Can you blame them?

One of my main motivations for writing is to correct this sad situation.

My character Damien was fourteen years old when he met Lilith, an attractive redhead who appeared nineteen. She was actually a fifty-five year old vampire. Lilith did not bother to inform Damien in advance that consummating their attraction would transform him into a vampire. Even though they are soul mates, and he has remained with her for over 250 years, Damien has never forgiven her for failing to tell him what he would become. This is the reason why Damien seeks solace in the arms of his mistresses, in spite of his wife Lilith’s habit of killing them.

The reason why Lilith didn’t tell Damien is that her first husband didn’t tell her she would become a vampire, either. And Lilith didn’t mind a bit. She loves being a vampire. She sees it as empowerment and deliverance from a menial 18th-century life. Lilith doesn’t think anyone would, or should, ever object to becoming a vampire. Even if they weren’t told about it in advance.

There are way too many books where you can read about a handsome male vampire at long last finding his human female soul mate. Once again, the time is ripe for an author to think outside the (coffin) box and bring the true “outcast” spirit of the vampire back from the, ahem, dead.

What tales of love reside in my novel? Jack, a newly turned young vampire wanting the love of a family, guarded by a Gypsy vampire still mourning the loss of her loved ones. Damien, never forgiving his wife’s act of information omission, seeking comfort in mistresses. Power-hungry Lilith, killing those mistresses to regain control of the “bad boy” husband she loves.

These are not the love stories in your typical dime-a-dozen paranormal paperback. These are the love stories of outsiders.

The love stories of vampires.

Writer vs. YouTube: Spin Spin Sugar

Writer Versus YouTube: Spin Spin Sugar
©June 02, 2011 by Daven Anderson

In the far corner of the ring is “Spin Spin Sugar,” a rock music video by the Sneaker Pimps.

My story is written from the point of view of the young man first seen attempting to change TV channels with the remote.

Dammit. This old piece of junk TV isn’t getting any channels. I give up. Lord, I never should have answered that personal ad. My date’s acting like a total drug addict. She’s in the bathroom. Fully clothed, sitting on the john, yelling out disjointed words.

I glance into the bathroom. My date stares lasciviously as she moans, “I’m everyone, I feel used.” What is she on? I’m the one who’s feeling used here. When a girl invites you to her motel room, you expect it to be just the two of you. Instead, her weirdo 1980′s retro-freak male friend is in the bathtub, wearing day-glow fluorescent clothes, sipping a strawberry milkshake.

She smiles at me and says, “I need you.” Oh, god.

Eighties freak boy stares at me for a second, then throws his milkshake on the bathroom mirror. Jealous, are you? Don’t be. This is the worst date I’ve ever been on in my life.

Great. Now sicko fluorescent retro-boy is licking his spilled milkshake off the mirror.

“Twist for me,” my date yells.

Uh oh. Now I get it. I think they want me for a threesome. Why didn’t she put her ad in Casual Encounters? As if these two weren’t bad enough, someone’s banging on a big African drum in the next room. This is the sleaziest hotel I’ve ever been in. I think she’s a hooker. This must be the place she takes her tricks to.

I bet glow-boy put a roofie in that milkshake. Now that freak’s dropping to the floor in agony, gripping the back of his mohawked head. I’ll be lucky if I get out of here alive and unmolested. Wonder if anyone’s hiding under the bed? I duck down and take a look. Hmm, no bodies, but a bunch of worms are crawling around under there. Gross.

“I want perfection,” my date says as she writhes on the other bed.
Honey, you’re the furthest thing from perfection.

I get up from under the bed and bang on the wall.
“Quit playing that fracking drum,” I yell.
The incessant drumming pauses for a second. I think they heard me.

What else is going on in this hell-hole? And why would some sleazebag hotel like this have a picture of Pope John Paul II on the wall? Must be covering something up. I chuck the photo aside. Aha, a peephole. I kneel down. A girl drinking wine and dancing in black light. Wish I was in that room with her.

Great. Now my date’s crawling across the floor, toward me. Leave me alone, I’d rather look at the other girl.

I gotta get out of this place.

Writer’s Toolbox – yWriter5

The scenes and chapters that authors write are pieces of a puzzle. Standard word processors such as Microsoft Word and Open Office Writer are ideal for composing your pieces. When you have gathered all the pieces and are ready to start assembling your puzzle, it’s time for a specialized editing tool. yWriter5, created by author Simon Haynes.

You can download and use it for free, with no time restrictions or ads. If you find this program to be beneficial, you can make a donation or click the links on the donation page to spread the word about his software on Google, Twitter, or Facebook.

The basics of yWriter5 were covered in Ron Heimbecher’s “Mapping, Trapping and Zapping” class at the 2011 Colorado Gold conference. After editing the first thirteen chapters of my novel in yWriter5, I have some useful tips.

In yWriter5, the building blocks of your novel are scenes. Chapters in yWriter5 are simply the upper level folders in which scenes reside. Your written text is pasted into scenes. This means when you create a chapter, you have to create scenes within the chapter before you paste in your text. In our critique group documents, we tend to mark scene changes with asterisks or the like. When pasting your documents into yWriter, you’ll copy and paste one scene at a time. yWriter5 can automatically split your scenes with asterisks, pound signs or your own custom characters when you export the project.

Sample story content tab
click on image to view in full size

The logic behind organizing a project by scenes is readily apparent from Simon Haynes’ own example. He had saved the chapters of his first novel as individual files (as I did). The organizational difficulties he experienced after moving a scene from one chapter to another (and back) are what prompted him to create yWriter5. Relocating a scene from one chapter to another is, of course, a quick and easy operation in yWriter5.

You can even define scenes as “used” or “unused.” If you wish to leave a scene out of an exported project, all you have to do is change it to “unused.” This ability comes in particularly handy if you have scenes you wish to leave out of agent and publisher submissions, but you want to keep those same scenes in your eBook version. When the scene editor is closed, a quick way to determine if your scene is “used” or “unused” (besides the small “Sc” or “U” boxes) is to check the chapter’s word count in the left pane. The chapter’s word count will drop when the scene is marked “unused”, and increase when the scene is again marked “used”.

yWriter5 features a Character index for scenes. Characters are assigned short names (ie: Holden) and full names (ie: Holden Morrisey Caulfield). I created some middle names for minor characters to make the index complete. A naming convention I had to consider is that European-descent working-class persons born before the 19th century generally did not have given middle names. Thus, my vampires born before 1800 lack middle names. One glance at my yWriter5 name listing quickly tells you which of my vampires are older. (One exception, L. She now uses her maiden name as her middle name)

In addition to the Character index, scenes also have Location and Item indexes. For example, you can quickly summon each scene occurring at Denver International Airport, or the scenes in which a Nissan GT-R appears. The indexes are very useful for editing out duplicated information about your locations and items.


click on image to view in full size

One issue I haven’t found an easy solution for yet is: If you paste double-spaced text into a scene, there’s no easy way to change it to single-spaced from within yWriter. My workaround has been to paste my text into plain text files (which removes all the formatting), then paste from there into yWriter and re-format. I prefer having the plain text files as an extra form of backup. You can also reformat your document as single-spaced, save it, then paste into yWriter. YWriter does have a global “remove all formatting” option, but this will strip out all your bolds, italics, underlines, etc.

yWriter5 does have a few idiosyncrasies you will have to learn before you master it, but it’s a well-designed program that will be of great help to you. And it’s free! 😀