Category: voices in my head

People watching

character creation, genre fiction, personal, voices in my head, writing life March 11, 2016

I am currently sitting in Dallas International Airport, waiting for a connection to Austin, Texas. My entire family is headed to Austin for the weekend to attend the wedding of my BFF. The wedding is at a Renaissance Festival and all the groomsmen will wear kilts. I love men in kilts.

I also love people watching, and there is no better place than an airport. So many different kinds of people use airports. I’m looking around here, and I see the typical business type, with his laptop (looks like a MacBook Air) open, headphones in, file folder at his side, stuffing his face with a slightly nasty looking deli sandwich all the while yammering on the phone. Multi-tasking at its best. Or worst. I’m not sure.

In the same row where I’m sitting are two grandmother-types, one working on crossword puzzle and the other knitting. No joke. It’s like a cliche was born.

On the other side of me is another business kind of guy. He’s got his laptop open on his lap, but he’s also wearing sunglasses, and since I’m sitting next to him, I can see that he’s actually dozing. Not quite as dedicated as Business Dude A.

Families have come in to watch the planes at the window, since I’m sitting near a very large one. The kids are all properly awed by the big flying machines. I like watching kids. They’re unabashedly excited about this travel thing and I’m so disillusioned by it. It’s refreshing and helps me remember not to take everything for granted. Most of the time.

There are couples and individuals. One woman looks to be studying– she’s got a workbook with post-it notes and a highlighter. Most of the carry-on baggage around me is black or gray, but the studying lady has a loud, leopard-print bag. I think I’d like her.

I could take any one of these people and drop them into a story. I look at mannerisms and memorize new things, like the guy eating a soft pretzel by biting all the crust off first and then eating the softer inside (equal parts fascinating and repulsive).

Honestly, some people are so cliche I couldn’t use them without being accused of creating a stereotyped character, typed as I stare at the woman with perfectly coiffed hair and Manolo Blahnik stilettos paired with skinny gold pants (on a plane??).

Business Dude B’s chin just hit his chest.

I’m definitely using the guy who just ate an apple, core and all.

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Fun stuff! A writing process blog tour!

blog tour, genre fiction, Habeas Corpse, marketing, Mistresses of the Macabre, Uncategorized, voices in my head, writing life, writing process March 10, 2014

Hey folks!

Today’s post is a stop on a blog tour! I’ll be chatting about my writing process and sending you, dear readers, in a couple of directions to read about the writing processes of some other very incredible writers. Take a look back at Mackenzie Lucas’ blog and how she produces her paranormal and contemporary romance and then look forward to see how a few other writers manage theirs.

First up is my thank you to the talented Mackenzie Lucas. She writes titles like Essence, The Megiddo Mark, and one of my favorites, Pompeii Reawakened. PR_cover

If you enjoy steamy romance, either paranormal or contemporary, I promise you’ll love Mackenzie. Go read about how she manages her writing at her blog here.

On to the questions!


I’m actually working on several projects right now.

My thesis needed rewrites before I could send it off to an agent, so I’ve been tackling that. It’s been much harder than I anticipated. It’s not horror, it’s more of a cozy-ish mystery, and my voice changed a lot in the time since I finished it. I’m finding it a challenge to go back and write something that is a lot less edgy and graphic than Habeas Corpse. It’s a quandary for me and I’m slogging through. An agent expressed interest in seeing it, so I have to get the rewrites finished and plan out five more books in the series. I will keep you all posted, naturally, if something comes of it.

I joined a Facebook group that challenges me to write 52 short stories this year, one per week. Some weeks I’ve written two, some one, some none, so I’m always playing catch-up with it, but I think it’s a great exercise in finding new ideas for stories and putting them into a story quickly. I often find an idea and let it simmer (procrastination at its best, really) before I start writing. The 52 in a Year has been a good way to get around that.

I’m also working on the sequel to my published novel, Habeas Corpse. In the tentatively titled Edas Corpse, the second book in the Corpse series, Theo is confronted with several problems. Detective Gavahan needs his help to uncover what is possibly a blackmarket for human flesh and the murders surrounding it. Should Theo work with his nemesis, or should he stay with his kind? If he agrees to work with the cranky detective, can he resist eating again? What is on Shelby’s newly undead mind?

To grab a copy of Habeas Corpse, published by Blood Bound Books, head to Amazon.


It really depends on which piece of work we’re talking about. My short story, “Black Bird,” published in Dark Moon Books’ Mistresses of the Macabre, is a very atmospheric piece. It’s been described as semi-literary. Rather than going for the gross-out horrific in this piece, I went for the feel of brooding sorrow, anxiety, and paranoia. It’s subtle, and honestly, one of my favorite of my own works.

Habeas Corpse is different in that my protagonist is a zombie. Most zombie fiction is post-apocalyptic and centers around the survivors struggle against the undead. Theo is the undead. He’s also not a typical male protagonist, particularly for the post-apocalyptic fiction. Think of Rick Grimes of The Walking Dead or Tom Imura of the Rot and Ruin series. They’re strong males, kind of the silent, swarthy type. They know how to handle weapons and take care of their family. Theo? Not so much. He good with a game controller and in the next book he’ll ride a Vespa. He breaks the stereotype of the male in zombie fiction.


I write what I do because I love it. I write in multiple genres: mystery, horror, and a smidge of fantasy. Each genre satisfies something for me. Mystery, something I believe is in every story, satisfies my love of puzzles. The classic “whodunit” will always be a favorite for me, and I love reading all mysteries from cozies to police procedural to true crime. It makes me think and gets my neurons firing. Horror touches the darker side for me, the side that loves the chill that runs up my spine when something truly frightens me. It makes me appreciate that I am alive and allows me to reconnect with the most primal of all emotions– fear. I’m also a fan of morbid and graphic writing, so describing how Theo feels when he eats is such a sensory experience. If I’m not grossing myself as I’m writing, it doesn’t work for me. Fantasy is an extension of horror, in a way. Both genres are often lumped together as speculative fiction. It’s writing about things that don’t exist as if they do. I have a short story about a wizard named Wendell. It’s based in a traveling carnival and Wendell has a troupe of sideshow freaks. It’s solidly a fantasy story, and I love it because it allows my brain to go places that I can’t in real life. Writing is a form of escapism for me. There’s nothing I love better than spending a day with my characters putting them in impossible situations.


Setting daily goals is integral to my writing process. My goals vary depending on what I’m working on and existing deadlines. If I’m producing new work, I have a word count goal for each day. I record my word counts in a calendar to track my output over the long term. If I’m editing, I usually have a page number goal or chapter number goal. I also have to account for marketing and social media so I can maintain (and hopefully increase) my community presence. I have a checklist of things I need to do over the course of a week to use social media. I will admit this is the first thing I allow to slide if I need time for my word or page counts.

I am a pantser (a writer who writes from the seat of their pants, just lets it flow without much planning) at heart, but because most of what I write has a mystery thread, I have to be a planner to some extent. My stories almost always begin with the characters. I will come up with the idea for a character or several characters, usually from something I read or see, and try to figure out where they fit in a story. Once I decide what their story is, I write a basic outline with plot points so I have a very rudimentary road map, and I start writing. Often during writing, those plot points change, but that’s fine. I usually know how the mystery element will play out and I have that pretty well figured out, but the characters can grow and develop however they’d like. I didn’t start Habeas Corpse with the intent to kill off an important character, but partway through the writing I knew I had to. I love how organic writing can be and that the characters really do sometimes dictate their own fates.

And now I’d like to invite you to visit these other authors to see how they view their work and learn more about their writing process.

Scott A. Johnson writes in several genres including nonfiction and horror. Visit his blog at Write Stranger.

Kerri-Leigh Grady is an editor and a writer of dark fiction. She blogs here.

Ann Laurel Kopchik writes fantasy, both of the elvish and bedroom kind. Go see her blog here.

Lyn Gala blogs about one writer’s journal through one version of reality. She writes some spicy, yummy, sexy goodness. Got check her out here.

Madeline Price writes dark and sexy fantasies. Find out more about her books and her writing process here.


angst, voices in my head, writing life, writing peeves February 6, 2012

After having worked my through several novels now, I realize where my weaknesses lie. Some people struggle with the right place to start a novel. Some of us dread the muddy middles.

I love starting a new novel– it’s like making new friends with all the lightheaded happiness of a new relationship. I’m just getting to know my characters, just finding their flaws and strengths, listening to them reveal themselves. It’s my favorite part.

The middle can be overwhelming, particularly if I haven’t planned my plot carefully enough or if something has happened to alter the course of my original plan. But I usually still have confidence in my characters in the middle, and we can plod through the swamp together, no matter how thick it is.

Writing the end of a novel is torture.

A novel should end with a bang, not whisper, it should leave the reader saying “Wow! That was a great read!” I’m perpetually afraid I’m selling my endings short. I’m very, very close to the end of my zombie novel and reaching not only the climax of the novel, but a scene that should be prove challenging to write based on the physical disabilities I’ve given my characters. There are questions to be answered before I can write the ending, and because this novel began as a short story and grew, unexpectedly, into a novel, some of the details are still a little hazy. I’m finding myself forging on, knowing I’m going to rewrite a lot, but also knowing that getting out what I can will give me the basis to finish.

One of my New Years’ resolutions was to get my work out of my computer more. As a result, I’ve entered two contests so far this year and set up my pitching session at World Horror Convention. I wrote a synopsis for one of the contests, so I know how this novel ends. I just have to get behind it and push.

Genre crossing, epiphanies and inspiration

angst, genre fiction, mixed genre, SHU WPF, voices in my head, writing life July 25, 2011

I have long called myself a mystery writer. I wrote a cozy mystery for my graduate thesis project. My favorite authors include Stephanie Bond, Dorothy Gilman, Alexander McCall Smith, Diane Mott Davidson, and Dana Stabenow (to name but a few). I love the puzzle of a good mystery. Always have and always will. I knew what I wanted to work on for my thesis project before I went to my first residency and focused on mystery throughout the program.

And then I met a horror writer. He was moderating a critique session I was required to attend. I truly appreciated the kind of critique he offered– down to earth and honest, but kind. Hmmm, thought I. I might like to work with this guy. So I snooped around a little and found out that we have a few things in common, and although he didn’t write mystery, he could relate to my thesis project and give me feedback on a whole new level. Hmmmm…

So I asked him if he would agree to take me on as a mentee for my last term writing project. Sure, said he. (Mwahahhahahaa….)

And a whole new world opened up to me.

Oh, I read outside my genre. A lot. There was one summer when I worked at a state park that I read every John Saul and Stephen King book I could get my hands on. I’m a huge fantasy fan, and I read all of the George R.R. Martin books WELL before the HBO series came out. I’ve read every Piers Anthony Xanth book and named my oldest son after a character in Katherine Kerr’s Deverry series. Melanie Rawn is on my shit list for not finishing the Exiles series. I love thrillers. My current favorite author is actually the team of Lincoln Child and Douglas Preston for their Agent Pendergast novels. Lurve me some Pendergast. Right now, if I turn on my iPad, Jonathon Maberry’s The King of Plagues will pop onto the screen (I’m nearly done!). Just an aside, I’ve met Mr. Maberry and he’s enthusiastic about talking with fans and a really great speaker. I highly recommend seeking him out if you ever get the chance. Also, on the recommendation of one of my critique partners, I’ve read every book of Karen Marie Moning’s Fever series (and enjoyed them). Nicole Peeler’s Tempest series rocks my socks off.

But, aside from a short story here and there, I’ve never written outside my genre. My mentor inspired me to read outside my genre with a new perspective. Because of my immense respect for him and for his work, I read the first book of his series with a new perspective. It’s a horror, set in Pittsburgh… with elements of a really great mystery. And that’s when I had the epiphany that every good book has a mystery. There are always questions to be answered in a book; it’s what drives the plot. Every writer is a mystery writer to some degree and it’s just the elements surrounding the questions that pigeonhole a book into a genre.

I went back to one of those fantasy short stories and started playing around with it again. I started the sequel to my thesis and somehow it came out a lot… darker. The realization that I could still write my mysteries and also indulge the other half of my creativity led to a very different kind of product… and I found that I enjoyed it so much more when I allowed myself to step outside those weird walls I’d put up and cross genres.

So now I’m working on a zombie novel. It’s got some gross stuff (whee!), a little romance and a lot of a mystery. And I’m having a blast writing it. Don’t ever be afraid to step outside those genre boundaries– sometimes the product is bigger, badder and so much richer.

And my thanks to that mentor.

Happy New Year!

SHU WPF, voices in my head, Writing About Popular Fiction, writing and technology, writing life January 5, 2011

Happy New Year and all that jazz. We had a quiet holiday here at the casa.

Bad news… my Facebook account was hacked. If you got a chat message from me asking for money because I’d been robbed at gunpoint in London… yeah, no. That’s not me. I contacted FB immediately and my page is disabled for the foreseeable future. If you were unfriended (because they ninja’ed my friends list) please, please let me know. I can’t tell who all they deleted. Leave me a comment here and as soon as my page is back up, I’ll add you again. Stupid phishers.

I leave on Friday for my final SHU residency. Thesis defense on Monday the 10th, graduation Wednesday the 12th. If I would have graduated last year, before the advent of the F, I would have been sad to go. Now? I’m exhausted and ready to be done. Subjected to too many bureaucratic changes, oversights and general fuck-ups. I’m done, stick a fork in me.

What’s on the horizon? Major thesis revisions and then heavy submissions to get that puppy on the road to publication. I’m also actively working on the sequel to the thesis and a ghost story, with a thriller muddling around in my brain. For the next week, though, I’m all about graduation.

Friday Fuel

Friday Fuel, voices in my head, writing life September 17, 2010

Every writer gets the question… “where do you get your ideas?”

I’m always surprised when someone asks me this. What do you mean? Don’t you hear the voices too? The characters knock on the inside of my brain, waiting for me to give them something to do. When something piques my interest or strikes me as absurd, a new character surfaces, a new plot emerges or an existing plot line changes course. Everything in life is fodder for the writer.

It’s the little details that fill in life’s wrinkles that I find most interesting. My husband is left-handed, I am right-handed. Even after 12 years of marriage, I’m still surprised when I find something that he’s done “backwards.” He puts the toaster in the cabinet the opposite direction than I think is “right.” Things like this make me more aware of my surroundings and give me a different perspective on life in general. If my muse is being particularly ornery, sometimes I find it helpful to switch up my normal routine. It can be something as simple as sitting in a different place to write, rearranging furniture or lighting new candles. Change is a fantastic way to get a new perspective and maybe jumpstart the writing process.

When change fails, I like to use writing prompts. Sometimes a prompt can result in a short story, sometimes it’s led to a novel-length project, or just a scene in a work in progress (WIP). I’d like to offer a short list of new writing prompts to help you jump start a project or get your imagination to a new place. Sort of fuel for the writer. I’ll blog a new list every Friday. These lists will cross genres.

Fuel for Friday, September 1, 2010

1. You walk into your apartment after a long weekend away and find your goldfish dead… speared with a miniature sword.

2. Your main character is at a fancy dinner party at the server places a plate in front of him/her. On the plate is a face.

3. Finish this sentence: “This shirt is _____.”

4. Someone receives a picture on his/her cell phone of their best friend…. but their friend has been dead for a year.

5. A computer malfunctions and traps twelve people in a coffee shop with no electricity.

I hope something here can spark a moment of creativity for you. Happy writing!


SHU WPF, voices in my head, Writing About Popular Fiction, writing and technology, writing life September 16, 2010

I’m currently enrolled in Seton Hill University’s Master of Fine Arts in Writing Popular Fiction. That’s right, delicate souls, I will soon be awarded a terminal degree in writing fiction. An academic award for the voices in my head. I am giddy with delight, but not so giddy that I can’t hear my characters cheering me on. Okay, some of them are laughing, but I’m not telling which ones.

This is my last term in SHU’s WPF program and I’m taking a class called Writing About Popular Fiction. Honestly, I wasn’t sure what to expect, and it’s both gone beyond the boundaries of my meager expectations and laid me out completely flat with what it means to be a writer in this technological age. I’ll be blogging a fair amount about the course content and what it means to me, but one of the assignments was to write my author bio. Or bios, as the case may be.

What better way to introduce myself on my blog? I write about a variety of topics, so I’ve chosen to write two separate bios.

My “general” bio:
Nikki Hopeman still has a trunk full of spiral-bound notebooks of short stories in elementary handwriting. While she’s graduated to using a computer for writing, she still finds files of mysterious information saved for future writing endeavors and she can sometimes remember why she saved them. She lives in the Pittsburgh area with her husband, two sons, two corgis and one chaotic cat. She can be reached through her website at

And one bio more specifically for my pagan writing (my thesis and its sequel novels):
A lifelong pagan and practicing Wiccan for fifteen years, Nikki Hopeman has a passion for the Celtic pantheon, tattoos and skyclad ritual. When she’s not mumbling over her cauldron or invoking her muse, she can be found in the Pittsburgh area with her husband, two sons, two corgis and one chaotic cat. She can be reached through her website at

You can find me on Facebook and Twitter, as well.