Don’t Call It a Comeback

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



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.

A lot’s happened in the last four years, and I’m not going to bore you with details. How about the CliffsNotes version instead? Here goes:

There once was a girl who had a day job. She worked too much. One day, she realized her day job had become her life’s priority. That was really dumb. She decided to change it. The end.

Now that I have my priorities in order and my head on straight, I’m left with the even harder part of figuring out the magic formula to my life. Balancing a demanding day job with my writing isn’t easy, but it’s not impossible either — obviously, because others have done it. I’m getting there, and I’m making better decisions every day. For starters, I’ve finally decided that I cannot work on the book at home. It’s too distracting there. For years, I fought the good fight, trying a thousand different ways to make that work. It doesn’t. I’m done fighting with it.

So, I now write at WeWork, a coworking space near my house and day job. This place is awesome. It’s basically a gigantic office space where people go to be productive — and they have cold brew coffee on tap. I’ve been spending most evenings and weekends there, finishing up the second Kari Hunter book. It’s been amazing. Basically, I go into one of the “phone booths,” close the door, slap my plot sticky notes on the walls, and go to town.


Where the magic happens.

So, I hear you saying, great, where’s the next Kari Hunter book? Well, a couple of months ago I hired a professional editor and sent her the first half of the book. Or, maybe a little more than the first half. I had languished with this book for so long that I could no longer see the forest for the trees. Was it good? Was it funny? Was it filled with problems? Honestly, I didn’t even know exactly how the damned book ended.

The editor emailed me back within a week. She said she read the book twice — I hadn’t even paid her for work yet, and she read it twice. She said she has a hard time getting hooked on stories but I hooked her with this. And then she said, in the politest terms, that I needed to get off my ass and finish.

So that’s what I’ve been doing. Working like a maniac to finish this thing. And it’s going well.

I’m four chapters from the end.

Keep in mind that this doesn’t mean the book will be out in a month. I have to finish it still, and I’ve learned that I’m not someone who can just rip it out without being thoughtful about the whole thing. I’m learning to embrace my thoughtful and planning nature because I really want this book to be good. Still, I’m super excited by where this book is going and I can’t wait to be done.

Thanks for sticking with me and the fictional Kari Hunter. (Although if you felt like sticking with the real one, I’m sure she’d totally appreciate it too.)


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.

Exactly two weeks later I received an email from one of you asking for an update on the book. Two days after that, a different person sent me a message on Facebook, asking if there was still hope for a sequel. Three days later, someone on Twitter tagged me and my blog, hoping to get an update and a preview of the book.

The timing of all that is pretty stunning, at least to me.

One of my coworkers believes it’s the Universe sending me a message. I don’t subscribe to that particular belief system but I’m easily able to adapt it to my own. Someone is sending me a message, telling me not to stop writing this book. And it isn’t just you guys.

Now, I’m not saying that I’m receiving messages from my Higher Power because this book is going to revolutionize the world. It isn’t. This isn’t some real life version of Bill and Ted where my book elevates humanity to our higher and more enlightened selves and makes everyone be excellent to each other. Not to mention it causes the world to party on, dudes.


What I mean is that I’m pretty stunned to think that my Higher Power believes I shouldn’t give up on my “stupid” writing hobby. Writing is an important part of me and I shouldn’t shut it down. However, I see now that over the last 10 months, that’s exactly what I’ve done. I’ve stopped writing. I’ve been avoiding Kari Hunter because the story was broken and, in a way, it sort of broke me. And because of the halted progress on the book, I’ve avoided my blog, because I didn’t know what to tell you guys.

To be honest, I think this lack of writing has made me a little off-kilter. I just haven’t been myself.

Anyway, the weekend following those three messages, I sat down on the couch with two notebooks, a half-dozen books on novel writing, and my laptop, and I figured out the problems with the new Kari Hunter book and how to fix them. It sucked up my entire weekend, but I did it.

Now, don’t get too excited. It’s going to take me some time to actually implement the fixes, and I have to write the new ending, but, for the first time in a few months, I feel really encouraged. I’ve been working away on the changes and things are going better than expected.

You all have waited a long time for an update, so here’s a little teaser for you. One of my awesome Twitter friends, Amanda Banker, tagged me on a “777” challenge. The idea is to post seven lines from page seven of your latest manuscript, and then tag seven friends to do the same. So here’s a little something from the next Kari Hunter book. Disclaimer: I’ve done this “777” thing once before and I find it impossible to follow the rules. A seven-line excerpt doesn’t stand out well on its own—it lacks context—so I’ve provided a few paragraphs. Second disclaimer: This is the only part of the book that has been seen by the Spouseditor, so anything you read “in the wild” is subject to editorial manhandling later.

Yes, manhandling.

Now, without further ado, here’s an excerpt from the coming Kari Hunter book:

– – –

I followed Brad through the steel doors and into a room so saturated in sharp, white light that no shadow existed. The overhead lamps beat down so hard I could feel their heat on my shoulders. I blinked, took a step back, and glanced over at Brad. The light seemed to have the opposite effect on him, but Brad lived for the spotlight. He stood a little straighter and his face relaxed. His cool, blue eyes swept the room quickly, then he shifted his bag on his shoulder and sauntered into the line marked for U.S. Citizens. I set my baggage down behind him but kept my hand resting on the handle.
I looked around. Large, white posters plastered the walls: travel safety, tourism, and, of course, the FBI’s Most Wanted List. The Wanted List took up half of the left wall. It was bigger than the one I had seen at the Quebec airport and most of the names were different. The headshots were life-sized, with names and faces arranged in two rows of five.

I was seventh on the list. That made me a little more wanted in the U.S. than in Canada. My competitive nature kicked in and I had to remind myself that it’s not always good to be number one.
The picture above my name wasn’t a photo, it was an artist’s black and white rendering—the same that I had seen in the Quebec airport. The image looked nothing like me. The face was bloated, with beady eyes, a tiny nose, and a cartoonish line for a mouth, drawn into a sneer. The name was typed in bold, capital letters beneath the picture, with the crime in smaller print. Unlike the poster I had seen in the Quebec airport, this one bore text in English, so I could finally read the caption beneath my alien headshot:


Nothing else. Unlike the other entries, mine didn’t indicate the reasons for my notoriety.
The room was crowded, but no one was looking at the posters or the guards or even at each other. They were staring at the television, at the breaking news feature that I couldn’t hear due to the general buzz of the airport terminal behind me.
Fifteen minutes and two dozen paces later, I found myself standing beneath my entry on the Most Wanted List. Brad’s gaze slid to me, then up to the drawn headshot, then back to me. His eyes pinched shut and he turned away.

Oh no. Was I wrong and there was a resemblance? Maybe there was some likeness that I couldn’t see. Maybe the artist had seen me on a bad hair day. Maybe my ears were bigger than I thought. Maybe my face really was that pudgy. The last few months hadn’t been great and sometimes I stress-eat. Regardless of the inaccurate and ugly drawing, the five minutes that I stood beneath my criminal entry were the longest of my life. I was fidgety. I looked like I was going for a hands-free removal of the world’s biggest wedgie.

– – –

So yeah. There you go. A little snippet of book two.

For those of you who have hung in there, waiting for a new book release, I want to say thank you. I’m thrilled. And shocked. And elated. And baffled. But mostly thrilled. I will see this book through to completion. Thanks for waiting.

I Quit photo courtesy of Deviant Art: Lovehurt123.

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.

You’ve probably browsed the science fiction and fantasy section at a bookstore and seen the shelves upon shelves of books belonging to established franchises like Dungeons and Dragons, Halo, Star Wars, Star Trek, etc. The books are supplemental entertainment for fans of those series, written by various authors. I dream of becoming one of those authors.
Yes, I know that I would just be one more author contributing to these worlds—I don’t need my name in lights, guys. I just want to contribute to something wonderful.

A series of short stories or novellas set in the Kari Hunter universe that has nothing to do with Kari Hunter.

Don’t get me wrong—I have fun being inside Kari’s head. But since I’m always there, I’d like to write something else in this universe that isn’t knife- and necromancer-centric. Something with mystery and action and humor—you know, all the good stuff. I’ve had a couple of ideas floating around in my head that I’m pretty excited about. If I can figure out a way to write faster and I can work on it without impeding the Kari Hunter series even more, I’ll do it.

A story that pays homage to Support Your Local Sheriff.

It’s no surprise that my all-time favorite flicks are comedies with a smattering of romance and action. If you’ve never seen this 1969 hit featuring James Garner (AKA Rockford) you’re missing out. In this western parody, a stranger visits a rowdy town in the time of the gold rush. Unfortunately, the price of breakfast in the town is just too damn high, so our handsome, macho hero takes the job of sheriff, just for the paycheck. To stay alive and get paid, all he has to do is keep a low profile, but instead he decides to arrest the meanest and dumbest of criminals around—and then he keeps the guy in a jail cell that has no bars.
I won’t spoil how he does it. You’ll have to watch the movie to find out.

Someday I’ll get around to writing other books, but these are the three that I would most like to have on my writing resume. What do you think? Did I miss anything? Are there books you think I should write that aren’t on the list?

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


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.

I was really surprised by this news, probably because in 2014 I kept my head in the sand, ostrich-like, working on the second Kari Hunter book. I did that intentionally, because every time I poked my head up long enough to look around, authors were running circles around me, boasting how fast they were publishing, how much money they were making, what new genres were hot and earning them a bazillion dollars. And now I find out most of those people are leaving because they’re fed up with publishing or marketing or the gold rush is over or… I don’t know.

I’m an ostrich, remember? This quitting thing is news to me.

Spiderman Desk Meme

For me, 2014 was the year of getting my sh*t together. I spoke before about how I was working hard on the Kari Hunter book even though I sort of had no idea what I was doing. I backed away from social media and my blog. I went silent on author friends. I started practicing Non-Zero Days.

I suppose I could have talked more about this personal journey, but, quite frankly, you would have found it a very boring read. And for me, well, it would have felt akin to lifting up my skirts and giving you a peek at my unmentionables.

Seriously. I know we’re just talking about writing silly books and it doesn’t seem like a big deal. It should be easy, right? Sure, if I want to keep taking four years to write a single book. (No, thank you.) When it comes to changing habits and life processes, there’s a mental game involved. Suddenly I’m fighting a host of inner demons that tell me to procrastinate or I’ll never be good enough or whatever.

I imagine my inner demons look like this, but with worse hair and, instead of wielding a stick she’s got one of those horrible ergonomic keyboards that take me five minutes of hunt-and-peck just to type the word “Hello!” but it still comes out “Wrph>”

I imagine my inner demons look like this, but with worse hair and, instead of wielding a stick she’s got one of those horrible ergonomic keyboards that take me five minutes of hunt-and-peck just to type the word “Hello!” but it still comes out “Wrph>”

I admit there were times I felt like quitting. It’s been two years and the next book still isn’t finished. The stress of that alone is enormous—because every time I pulled my head up out of the sand to check things out, industry “experts” and “successful” authors were saying I was taking too long to write my books, no one’s going to care if I write anything else, and I shouldn’t even bother at this point.

It’s interesting that lot of those experts and authors have dropped off the face of the earth.

And I’m still here. So are you.

I resolved long ago to march to the beat of my own drum, and not those of authors and industry experts around me. There’s something inside me that makes me want to zig when everyone else zags. But I don’t think that’s bad. In fact, I’m proud to be different. My goal as a writer has never been to make a bazillion dollars or hit bestseller lists. Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t be sad if that happened, but it’s never been a goal. What I want is to contribute to the urban fantasy genre in a way that makes people take it a lot more seriously than they do now. I want to write really great books—books that also march to the beat of their own drum.

If the standard for 2014 was for writers to quit, I’m glad to be different. And if my readers are still here, maybe it means you’re different too.

A lot of readers have sent me notes, saying you’ll wait for the next book, however long it takes. I want you to know that I truly appreciate it. Now I owe you a story that’s worth the wait.

The “Year of the Quitter?” Not for me. Call it the “Year of the Ostrich” if you will. Head in the sand, working everything out.

2015 shall be the Year of the Drum. Or maybe the year of Stubby.

Happy New Year.

Drum photograph courtesy of ctrl_lost.

The Secret to Being Awesome: Non-Zero Days

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.

Enter the Non-Zero Day.

It’s like being Bruce Lee, but without the whole “punching people in the face” business.

The comment was in response to someone who thought their life was going nowhere. They lacked motivation and discipline and, worst of all, they stopped caring about themselves entirely. I admit that a part of this comment rang true for me too, but it was the response that got my attention:

“Rule numero uno—there are no more zero days. What’s a zero day? A zero day is when you don’t do a single thing towards whatever dream or goal or want or whatever that you got going on. No more zeros. I’m not saying you gotta bust an essay out everyday, that’s not the point. The point I’m trying to make is that you have to make yourself, promise yourself, that the new SYSTEM you live in is a NON-ZERO system. Didn’t do anything all…day and it’s 11:58 PM? Write one sentence. One pushup. Read one page of that chapter. One. Because one is non-zero. You feel me? When you’re in the super vortex of being bummed your pattern of behaviour is keeping the vortex going; that’s what you’re used to. Turning into productivity ultimate master of the universe doesn’t happen from the vortex. It happens from a massive string of CONSISTENT NON ZEROS.

That’s rule number one. Do not forget.”

Somehow, it was what I needed to hear. But it didn’t stop there; the writer continued with three more rules and then dangled a carrot:

“There’s so much more when it comes to how to turn non zero days into hugely non zero days, but that’s not your mission right now. Your mission is non zero and forgiveness and favours.”

Hugely non-zero days? Bigger personal accomplishments? Happiness and personal satisfaction?

Finding a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow and not that jerky little leprechaun who bites my ankle when I ask about the treasure?

I had heard these promises before and they all had failed me—but I had nothing left to lose. So, I got to work on my own fledgling non-zero system. I grabbed my whiteboard calendar and identified the top three things that I wanted to work on. My goal was to do at least one of those three things each day and mark them down on my whiteboard. No, I wasn’t perfect about it, but I kept trying. I’ve been doing this for about three months now and something strange is happening:

I’ve been writing nearly every day, making consistent progress on the next book.

I’m starting to dream big—and I’m taking the steps to reach my goals.

Amazing ideas are coming to me—not just about writing, but about life in general. I’m doing new and wild things. Best of all, I’m having bigger non-zero days than when I first started this journey.

With all that said, I’m nervous to tell you all this because every time I talk about my goals or my new systems, everything falls apart. The reason for this is probably related to what Derek Sivers says in his terrific TED talk Keep Your Goals to Yourself.

The video is short but wonderful, explaining that most people who share their goals experience an emotional fulfillment similar to those who actually achieve their goals. Since they already feel good about sharing, they abandon their goals entirely and never accomplish anything. Ungh! Why had no one told me about this before?

But, hey, it’s a lesson learned and now I can share it with you. Go check out the non-zero post. (One caveat: it contains a little profanity for emphasis and some bad grammar—but his enthusiasm makes up for it.)

Drop that zero, become a hero

Okay, you sat through this whole post, so here’s a little update on the next Kari Hunter book: I’m so excited about this story. I’m nearing the end of a huge revision and will be starting edits soon. I know this is taking a long time, but bear with me. I’m getting better at this whole “authorship” thing, it’s just taking me a little more time and effort than most. It’s taking a little non-zero action.

What do you think about the non-zero day? Leave a comment below and let me know! 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.

Anyway, I’m still working on the second Kari Hunter book. I’m getting close to finishing the first draft and I’ve never been so excited or scared about the story. It’s going to be a little different than THE FOURTH CHANNEL. It has to be, because I’m no one-trick pony. After the events of the first book conclude, life will never be the same for Kari or her family. Kari will cling to her beliefs as a pacifist in a violent world, and she will come to understand the consequences of her choice. People will die. People will go to jail. Knives will be punished. Legs will be humped. And Moons will take up pole dancing.

To those of you crazy awesome people who keep checking for an update… Thank you. I’m amazed and humbled. The second book is on the way. I’m working as fast as humanly possible to get it completed and in your hands. Stay tuned for more updates. 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

Cobra Command Financially Down, But Not Out, Says Evil Empire’s Leadership

G.I. Joe - COBRA LogoSECRET BASE—The Annual Shareholder Meeting at Cobra headquarters was somber as CEO Cobra Commander stood before investors and delivered the bad news: profits were down, and they had won only two battles in the last year. Though the first quarter had shown a significant increase in profits, the next three were riddled with large expenditures and poor management decisions. Analysts cite the determined efforts of Cobra’s evil nemeses, the G.I. Joes, as the key factor in their hardship.

“Real talk, guys,” Cobra Commander said in the midst of his thirty-one slide PowerPoint presentation that detailed their failures. “Winning against the Joes is getting tougher and tougher. They’ve got ‘knowing’ so they’ve already won half the battle. The most we could ever hope to win is the other half.”

But the evil association’s message wasn’t one devoid of hope. Following the dismal financial forecast, Emperor Serpentor took the stage and reiterated the group’s commitment to world domination and defeating “those damned Joes.” He detailed a plan that would put the company back in the black.

“We’re prepared to make sacrifices,” Serpentor told the group, “starting with Bob. You’re toast, pal. We’re also going to cut back on the amount of laser fire during our conflicts. Sure, heavy weapons fire that doesn’t actually hit anything is one of our most effective tactics, but it’s expensive. We’re going to cut back on the laser fire and supplement with laser pointers. I know a guy at a cat toy company who will sell us a bunch for cheap. Third, we’re thinking about moving our headquarters. Destro keeps a close eye on the Internet, and thinks that in Soviet Russia we may defeat the Joes.”

After the formal discussion ended, the Q&A session dissolved into needless finger pointing. “As the leader of this organization, I’m fully aware that the blame for our shortcomings falls solely on the shoulders of one person,” said Cobra Commander, “and that person is Baroness. Wait, did you think I was going to say it’s my fault? Don’t be ridiculous.” The meeting then broke out into a laser gun fight where no one was actually shot.

A high-ranking member of the G.I. Joes who spoke on condition of anonymity said, “We knew Cobra was holding a big meeting, so we sent our best spy to find their secret base and listen in on their plans. Unfortunately our best guy is Snake Eyes and he doesn’t talk, so he couldn’t tell us what was said. I’m sure it was the usual talk about how we suck and they’re going to take over the world. We’re not worried. They don’t even have the biological weapons Doctor Mindbender keeps bragging about. They’re just shell casings loaded with Pop Rocks and Canada Dry.”

A spokesperson for Cobra Command declined to comment. Continue reading