Your Last-Minute Guide to Surviving the Holidays… Now with More Star Wars

Star Wars Opening Crawl.png

The holidays are less than a week away, and if you’re anything like me, you don’t want to see your family. You can now crush this holiday discomfort with one swift stroke. Over the last five years I’ve perfected a holiday regimen that saves everyone from the awkwardness of holidays with family. If you have any sway over the structure of your gathering, I have three tips that will save you from an evening of emotional scarring and a trip to the therapist. Continue reading

Don’t Call It a Comeback

It’s been brought to my attention that I haven’t blogged in a year.

whoops

Whoops.

I’ve actually had a few people inform me that they’ve read THE FOURTH CHANNEL more than once, and a surprising number say they read it on a regular basis. They’re blowing my mind a little bit. To all of you who have stuck with me, checking back periodically to see what the status is on the next Kari Hunter book, thank you. I’m stunned. Flabbergasted. Flummoxed. I honestly thought you would have forgotten about me by now. But you’re still here. Emailing me. Messaging me on Twitter. Facebook. Asking me when I show up at the beauty salon. Even the Real Kari Hunter is standing by, patiently waiting for an update on her fictional doppelgänger. Continue reading

I Quit

i_quit_by_lovehurt123-d5go0i8I quit.

I mean that in the past tense, of course. I had quit writing the Kari Hunter book for a few months. I thought about my next steps for a long while, and then told my writing group that the Kari Hunter series was dead. That book and I had tortured each other long enough. The story was wrong in many ways. I felt like every time I tried to fix it I somehow made it worse. I’ve spent more than two years writing it, churning the material over and over in an attempt to complete it, but something about the story was wrong—and I couldn’t put my finger on what. However, I knew that if I continued battling the story in the same way that I had been, I’d burn out completely and stop writing forever. And that thought terrified me. I didn’t want this book—this bizarre comedy that I loved so dearly—to be cause of the birth and death of a hobby that I love.

So, I told my Writing Posse that I was done with Kari Hunter. I was ready to take on a new writing project, starting from scratch on something else. They understood. They encouraged me to forget all about Kari and work on something else. It was decided.

Apparently, a few of you felt differently. Continue reading

The Three-Book Bucket List

I want to write other books. Don’t get me wrong—I love the Kari Hunter series and the world I’ve built. I want to build out this world fully, in more ways than one. At present, I have plans to keep writing Kari books until it’s no longer fun for us all. Then we’ll consider other options. Until then, I have no plans to stop. But that doesn’t mean I don’t dream of writing other books.
In fact, I have a secret “bucket list” of books that I want to write someday.

Hey, it’s a new year—if there’s a better time to share this list, I don’t know when it is!

Someday, I hope to contribute to a major series with an established world.
Continue reading

I’m Still Standing (Yeah, Yeah, Yeah!)

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Last week, I read a blog post by Kristine Kathryn Rusch, an established writer whose list of works and accolades is as long as my bucket list. Since writing is her full-time occupation, she’s kept herself informed about the comings and goings of the publishing world for self-published authors and traditionally published authors alike.

Apparently, in 2014, authors did more goings than comings.

According to Rusch, authors have been disappearing from the publishing landscape. Some without so much as a farewell. Others with grand public announcements.

Even self-published authors who had boasted great sales.

Even traditionally published authors who had firmly established themselves in the business.

As Rusch put it, 2014 was the “Year of the Quitter.” Exit Stage Right. Adios, muchachos. Continue reading

The Secret to Being Awesome: Non-Zero Days

Awesome-Barney-Stinson
Photo courtesy of Fanpop.

I have discovered the secret to being awesome!

Luckily, it’s about as easy as Barney Stinson makes it out to be.

Last year, I confessed that I’d been struggling to develop a process for writing. Since then, I’ve had ups and downs (more downs than ups), trying things that never really stuck. I was looking for a gimmick. A quick fix. A magic bullet.

Of course, there isn’t one. As it turns out, no one can change until they identify the true problem, and then nothing will get better unless they truly want to change. And so I struggled along, trying to be a “real writer,” beating myself up for not being a real writer, and spiraling into frustration and self-loathing.

One night, after I had sat down to write but was totally not doing it because I was surfing Reddit instead, I found a couple of subreddits for getting disciplined. It led me to a highly rated comment that changed my life. Continue reading

Breaking Radio Silence

The plot to the second Kari Hunter book.

The plot to the second Kari Hunter book.

You know how it goes: you tell yourself you can skip a week of blogging, then another week goes by. And then the next, and the next… Before you know it, over three months have passed since the last time you said anything.

The scope of blogging for authors has changed anyway, I reasoned. Probably no one’s reading this blog. The first book came out over a year ago, and everyone’s forgotten about it. Right?

And then, on a whim, I popped over to my Amazon author page and realized I had seven comments of people saying they were checking religiously for a new Kari Hunter book, and when is the next one coming out?

And those were just the comments. Who knows how many others are just popping by to check?
So for those of you who are looking for the next Kari Hunter book, here’s the news. (I’ll make this the abbreviated version. Those of you who are curious about the personal and writerly details can check back later.)

Back in December, I posted an update with a plan for the second Kari Hunter book. I explained that I had never come up with a process for writing, so I was feeling my way through the new book, slowly but surely. I even hinted at a timeline, which I really shouldn’t have done. This new book has taken me through some amazing twists and turns. I reached some personal highs and incredibly low lows. I forgot how to write a book. And then I remembered again. I even figured out my own writing process. So that I don’t forget again, and so I can write books a little faster in the future, I documented my process.
Yes. There really is a document. Because that’s what a big nerd I am. Continue reading

Where In the Hell is the Next Kari Hunter Book?

WindowSeatDecember 4 marked a very important milestone for me: the anniversary of THE FOURTH CHANNEL release.

When I look back on the last year, a scene from the movie “Tin Cup” comes to mind: Kevin Costner plays a golf pro at a small town driving range. When he enters the US Open, the attention causes him to develop a glitch in his swing and he’s completely unable to hit the ball. He manages to hide his problem, but privately he’s having a crisis, trying to fix his swing so he can play. At one point, he’s standing in his RV, decked head to toe in tacky, plastic golfing gimmicks that he once eschewed, when his love interest, played by Rene Russo, walks in and catches him in his most humiliating moment.

This last year has felt a lot like that moment.

When I first wrote THE FOURTH CHANNEL, I had no idea what I was doing. I wrote blogs and entertained my friends with (bad) video game fanfiction. The very first iteration of TFC was well over 200,000 words and had no plot.

I probably shouldn’t admit that, but there you have it.

At the time, all I knew was that I enjoyed writing and I wanted to get better at it. I had no plans to publish, much less tell anyone I was writing a book. I did it for fun. So, as soon as I got within three chapters of the book’s ending, I’d throw away what I had written and start over with a blank page. I rewrote the book about four or five times, just for fun.

If anything, I’ve learned to embrace the concept of a full rewrite.

What I hadn’t figured out was a book-writing process that worked for me. By the time I realized that I wanted to publish TFC, I thought that being able to produce books quickly didn’t matter because no one knew who I was and no one was going to read the book. My plan was simple: publish TFC and then spend as much time as I wanted to figure out the whole “author process” thing. The plan was pretty firm because I only expected 15 people to read TFC.

I got that in the first couple days and then some. I was more than a little surprised.

So, for the past year, I’ve been in this “Tin Cup” mode where I’m trying to act like I’ve got it all together, that I know what I’m doing, and I’m preparing to wow you with a sequel any day now, but behind the scenes I’ve been stressing out and trying every writing gimmick I can find. I’ve asked for advice from all of my writing friends, researched the habits of the pros, and even talked to strangers who are much more prolific than I. I’ve tried every method to write better and faster, no matter how bizarre. (And in case you’re wondering, the “writing in your underwear” thing doesn’t work at all.)

The good news is that I’ve started figuring it out. So, on the one hand, I’m really discouraged that I have no book to show you right now. On the other hand, I’m excited that things are starting to come together at last—and quickly.

So, let’s get down to brass tacks: where in the hell are we with the next Kari Hunter book? In January, the first chapters of the beta edition will start rolling out to my two trusty partners, Angela and Mark. As you know, they also helped me with the first book. We still have a few months before the Spouseditor gets a hold of it, and we’re considering throwing an additional person into the editing mix. I realize that sounds like a lot of work, but I promise we’re getting closer to the finish line.

As for the content of the book, I feel a mixture of excitement and terror. I’m just praying that the wait will be worth it and you’ll love it. I wrote TFC thinking it would be a one-off story that no one would read. And if you’re one of the many people who read TFC and loved it and you’re asking me, “Where in the hell is the next Kari Hunter book?” I thank you. More is coming, I promise. Stay tuned. Continue reading

You Asked, I Answered: The Q&A

Question mark A couple of weeks ago, I suggested we try a Q&A. I know it seems a little corny, but it’s a good way to connect with you and find out what’s on your mind. Your comments and questions provide fuel for stories, blog posts, and even details in the Kari Hunter world. It started with the Vote Your Adventure campaigns we did—your feedback inspired the stories in ways I never dreamed. Sure, your votes directly guided the stories, but it was the additional, often hilarious comments that inspired me to add quirky details I may not have thought of otherwise.

Bottom line: I like connecting with you.

I got a lot of great questions—personal ones as well as book related. And there are a lot, so let’s get started.

Question: I just want to ask how are you doing? (And say I can’t wait for the next book. xx)

Jen: Honestly, I feel awesome. I mean it. A couple of weeks ago, I alluded that the Spouseditor and I made some changes to our lives. It’s given me a better balance and I’m able to make writing a high priority. This is probably the best “head space” I’ve been in in many years, so thanks for asking. And thanks for the excitement about the next book! I’m pretty excited too. It’s really shaping up into something special. And comical.

Question: What kind of car do you drive? Year, model, colour, condition? And if you could have any car what would you buy? (not unplausible if you become a super-novelist)

Jen: I have a dark grey 2009 Toyota Corolla (with a moon roof!) but I don’t drive much—once or twice a month, if that. The Spouseditor and I recently moved into downtown Seattle and we’re both close to our jobs. Plus, the city’s congested and it’s expensive to park. I thought I’d hate giving up my car but the truth is that my stress level has dwindled and I’m infinitely happier now that I don’t have to fight traffic every day.

If I could have any car, what would I buy? Well, in THE FOURTH CHANNEL, Kari owns a red Audi TTS Coupe. Back when I was writing that book, it’s the car I wanted. These days, I don’t really drive, but if a stranger walked up to me and handed me the keys to a brand new Tesla Model S, I wouldn’t complain. I’d hop in and hit the gas… er, electric.

Question: Were the Sci-fi pinups inspired by some strange geek fetish that I may or may not share?

Jen: Hah, no. One day, I was brainstorming blog ideas for someone and I got a weird idea for a zombie-themed pinups post. The person I suggested it to liked it (outwardly, anyway) but they never used it. So, after waiting a few months and not seeing the idea being used, I decided to use it. I liked the idea because it’s funny and nostalgic, and the posts are quick and dirty reads, which makes it ideal for the internet. Sci-Fi Pinups is, by far, my most popular series. So I keep doing it. For you. I’m a woman of the peoples.

Or maybe I’m just a big ham. Dunno. Could go either way.

Question: What do you read/listen/watch to inspire yourself to write?

Jen: The pros say a writer should never wait until they’re inspired or writing would never get done. I find that to be true. So, I just sit down and do it. But I need a special kind of ambience to stay focused. Music can be distracting if it’s not the right kind. Music has an opening, a climax, and an ending. Then there’s a pause, and a new song begins. Distracting. My brain picks up on all that and it’s hard to focus.

So, to keep a steady, consistent mood, I turn on a very long video game soundtrack. I recommend Skyrim and Halo 2. For even more ambience, turn on Simply Rain behind the soundtracks. Hours of uninterrupted bliss.

Question: Is Kari Hunter a character you wanted to write about or is there a quality in her that represents you or what you want to be?

Jen: Kari is the type of character I wanted to write about. For many years, most books I read were about serious characters in serious situations. Even now, many books try to “out-dark” each other. I didn’t want to go that route. I like comedy and I wanted to write a woman who could be strong while being funny. Even if she did want to go the strong, dark route, nothing in her life will allow her to sink into it. It’s hard to keep a straight face when Rambo’s singing crime show theme songs in monotone.

Question: Which fictional character (other than one of your own) would you want to be, and why?

Jen: I got this question quite a bit, in a few different forms. So I gave it a lot of thought and decided I want to be…

Princess Leia

…Princess Leia.

Hear me out on this one. Princess Leia has it all: she’s a Rebel leader, she’s rich, she has Jedi powers, she’s a princess, and she gets to smooch Han Solo. In her spare time, she’s flying around the galaxy, righting wrongs and fighting evil. In the novels, she even gets her own lightsaber!

Lightsabers rock!

Question: What is your favorite non-popular video game?

Jen: Oof. Answering this is like showing you my gaming skeletons in the closet. I’ve loved a few bad games in my time. Bad ones. You know what I’m talking about. After a long day at work, you come home to find the game drunk and pantsless, sleeping on the recliner, surrounded by open beer cans and empty bags of Fritos. You yell and scream and threaten to leave if they don’t shape up. You know you could walk out the door and be with a game that has a 92 Metascore—but they promise they’ll change and treat you better.

But they never do. They’re buggy and lose your saves and all kinds of crap. The controls are bad, and you don’t know why you do it to yourself. But you keep playing…

A few years ago, I played a game called Hellgate: London. It had a lot of promise and did well initially. It even had an online component that my friends and I all played. But the game was buggy, and customer service wasn’t handled well. The fixes were “too little, too late” and the company closed. The servers were shut down as a result.

Hellgate London Wallpaper

But I kept playing. There was something about a near future where demons were in control of the Earth’s surface that appealed to me. I kept playing it and thinking about it. Even though the game was filled with glitches that made me have to start brand new characters after hours of gameplay, something about the idea of the game wouldn’t let me go.

Our Vote Your Adventure world was inspired by it.

Question: What’s your favorite guilty pleasure song?

Jen: Anything by Toto or Lionel Richie. Don’t judge me.

Lionel Richie Hello Lost Poster

Question: So what is Rambo intended for if the hilt does not fit Kari’s hand? Other than singing Mack the Knife, that is.

Jen: If you haven’t yet read THE FOURTH CHANNEL, our intrepid necromancer, Kari, has named all of her knives. Her fourth knife, Rambo, is very different from the first three, so much so that she has never touched it. When it was created, its wide handle and jagged, black blade freaked her out, so she used a pair of tongs to put it into her knife box, and the knife hasn’t moved since. The question is a really good one. Unfortunately, you’re going to have to wait until the next Kari Hunter book. Rambo’s a big part of the plot.

Question: How is Kari really related to Brad? Seems odd that his third channel dad would miss an important thing about his niece considering how close they all are.

Jen: Brad’s mother and Kari’s birth mother are sisters. Brad’s parents divorced when Kari and Brad were young. The divorce was not amicable. Since Rick (Brad’s dad) didn’t want to see his ex or his ex’s sister, he made it a point not to go over to the house where he thought Kari lived. The only time he went was shortly after the incident that made Kari a necromancer. He saw Kari’s tiny bedroom and it was obvious that she had never been there. After that, he’s always been suspicious that something was amiss.

Furthermore, Uncle Rick has never had prolonged physical contact with Kari. He’s gotten the static shock from a quick brush against her skin, but because she’s just his niece, it’s been easy for Kari to avoid contact that would grant him necromancer sight.

Question: May we have a flashback scene where she comes into her power and meets Mikelis? Just cause I love him.

Jen: I love Mikelis too. Sure. I’ll write that for you. Stay tuned.

Question: When is the next Fourth Channel book being released?

Jen: The sequel has no date yet. Sorry. But I can say that I’ve never written anything this quickly before. I’m very excited about the story and I’ll be sure to update you on its progress.

Question: Sometimes I feel that women have monopolized modern fantastic literature. Perhaps I’m being paranoid?

Jen: That’s interesting because I see men dominating fantasy and science fiction. Before releasing THE FOURTH CHANNEL, I was afraid that male readers would see my name and a female protagonist and largely assume it was a “girl book.” Whatever that means. Maybe that the characters were painting each other’s toenails and shoe shopping. Many female authors have been known to use initials or a pseudonym for this very reason. Now that I’ve published, I feel as though self-publishing is changing that attitude. Or maybe it’s just changed my attitude. Readers are looking for good books. Period.

Question: It’s 4am. There’s a knock on your door. You look over at Tom but he’s so deep in sleep that he doesn’t even stir when you elbow him in the ribs. A second knock. You check twitter on your phone. The trending topics in your area are: MurdererKnockingOnDoorsBeforeKillingEveryoneInside AND GenerousMillionaireVisitingHousesAt4amWithGiantCheques

What do you do? WHAT DO YOU DO?!

Jen: Stand on the other side of the door reading the latest Wall Street Journal aloud. The millionaire will be excited. The murderer will fall asleep.

 

And that concludes our first Q&A! Did I answer your question? If not, leave a comment below and I will answer. You can also connect with me on Twitter and Facebook.

If you’re curious about my comic urban fantasy, THE FOURTH CHANNEL, you can pick up a copy on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Continue reading

Oversharing, Q&A, and the Next Vote Your Adventure

Jen considering oversharing

Previously, I confessed that I’m not comfortable talking about myself. I had a personal blog for a long time, but the things I would write on it were only interesting to my mom. Come to think of it, they may not have been interesting for her, either. Plus, when I share personal things, I feel as if I overshare. There seems to be no point to my personal stories; they are neither entertaining nor informative. I could try to direct the stories so that there’s a lesson at the end, like Aesop’s Fables, but that’s too difficult and takes too long, and I don’t feel that my role in our relationship is to tell you what your morals should be. So, when I sit down to blog, I try to write things that I want to read. Like many folks, I have a full-time office job; comic vignettes help to break up the monotony of my day.

There’s a point to this, so bear with me. This is sort of an apology. My blog doesn’t look like many others, and for that I am fiercely proud and wholly embarrassed at the same time. I’m sure people come here and are immediately confused. Maybe even put off. Of course, there are no rules about blog content, and I’m sure most people don’t have any expectations prior to visiting, but I imagine some are confused or surprised. And for that I’m sorry. Also not sorry.

See, writing a novel takes a long time. It’s a process that involves planning and organization and then soul-crushing deliberation where the content and grammar are vetted by four other people, and that takes even more time…

As someone who longs to entertain and be read, a blog takes that edge off because I can write and publish—rather, the Spouseditor edits and then he hits publish—it’s much more immediate than a novel. The blog keeps me from feeling as if I should compromise the story or quality of the next Kari Hunter novel for the sake of having fiction read right now. This blog is an outlet, and it enables me to take the proper time to give a full novel the time and attention it takes to be fully enjoyable. What does that mean for you? Well, it means satirical articles about G.I. Joe. It’s a little bit weird and a little bit awesome. So, as I said above, I’m sorry. Also, you’re welcome.

However, I don’t want to ignore your requests for information. I want to talk to you about personal things and I like connecting with you. I enjoy it on Twitter because that medium creates a dialogue. I’m good at dialogue. A blog, on the other hand, is mostly a one-sided conversation, and I don’t know what personal things you want to read unless you suggest something.

So we’re going to do a Q&A.

Question mark What do you want to know? Curious about items in THE FOURTH CHANNEL? Questions about Book 2? Questions about me? Ask me anything and I will answer. Disclaimer: May not be the answer you expected. If questions about the Kari Hunter books don’t involve spoilers, I’ll answer as best I can. Otherwise, I may have to be dodgy or just send an answer back privately. Either way, I will respond to you.

The Q&A will be posted on July 8.

The deadline for questions is the end of the day on July 5.

I really want to hear from you, so please send me some questions! You can send questions a few ways:

1. Post it as a comment below

2. Cram it into a Tweet and send it to @JenLKirchner

3. Post a comment on my Facebook page

4. Send me an email, using the contact form in the sidebar

5. Leave a note on Google+

I’m trying to make this easy for you because some of you are probably just as introverted as I am. If that’s the case, you can even make up a pseudonym when you contact me. As long as the name doesn’t exceed a PG rating or contain a spoiler, I will post your question and answer it.

Speaking of the next Kari Hunter book, the writing is going very quickly now. Recently, the Spouseditor and I made some big changes in order to make writing a priority. As a result, I’m about 32,000 words deep into the next book. I can’t begin to tell you how excited I am about the story so far; I want to tell you about it so badly that I’m (figuratively) bursting at the seams. My hope is to be done writing in the next three months so it can go to editors. I know, it’s a long time, but I hope it will be worth it. Now that writing is even more of a priority for me, I expect subsequent books to come more quickly.

In the meantime, we should all be treated to a little fiction. So, we’re reviving an old tradition here on the site:

The Vote Your Adventure is returning.

Homage to Choose Your Adventure For those of you who have never participated in the VYAs before, let me sum up: this site went live on May 5, 2011. My first offering was a web story based on the old Choose Your Own Adventure books that I loved as a kid. Basically, each page has a short story blurb with choices on what the character does next. Some choices end well while others end badly. My web series operated the same way, except that you, the readers, voted on which step the story took next. I gave everyone a few days to read and vote, and then I posted the winning decision plus screen caps of my favorite votes—the comments are often riddled with hilarity and great insight. The following week, I’d post the next step in the story based on the vote.

If you’re interested, you can still read the Vote Your Adventure stories. I should warn you that they’re much different than THE FOURTH CHANNEL. They’re dark, post-apocalyptic, military-themed stories. And they don’t all end well.

The new story will continue in this world, though it won’t have a military theme this time. I’m taking inspiration from The Last Of Us, a video game that’s solely an escort quest. That means you’ll need to get someone from point A to point B safely.

It also means you’ll be unarmed.

In order to make this a little less strenuous, the episodes will be posted every two weeks rather than weekly. (I can’t work on the next Kari Hunter book and go balls-to-the-wall with a weekly VYA without exploding.) You’ll have a week to vote, then I’ll post the results, along with my favorite votes. I might even do some giveaways for participants like I did before. We’ll see. The first chapter will be up on July 21 so mark your calendars and tell your friends.

And be ready to run for your life.

Okay, that’s it. I know that was kind of long and I appreciate you all hanging on until the end. Don’t forget about the Q&A! I want to hear from you; ask me anything you want to know. The deadline for our Q&A is July 5 and the answers will be up on July 8.

And, uh, subscribe to the site. Links are in the sidebar. And pick up a copy of my debut comic urban fantasy, THE FOURTH CHANNEL.

See you guys next week for the June Sci-Fi Pinups! Continue reading