Inspiration… Or “What Does my Character Look Like?”

genre fiction, research, Uncategorized, writing life January 28, 2014
Just imagine this guy a little grayer.

Just imagine this guy a little grayer.

I’m totally guilty of trolling the internet for images of my characters. I’ve written here before that James McAvoy is the inspiration for Theo Walker. I find inspiration for a lot of my characters this way and I find it helps me keep their features straight throughout the story. I have a basic image in my head of what this character looks like, maybe ethnicity or general features or hair and eye color, and I search the internet, most often stock image sites for a person who looks like what I’m imagining. I print the photo and stick it on my character card.

Hello, Detective Gavahan

Hello, Detective Gavahan

I’m also guilty of employing this little trick with settings. I keep cards for important places in my novels with information like business hours, addresses, cross streets, anything that might be important details to keep consistent throughout the story. In the mystery novel I’m rewriting, one shop acts as a character. I had a local shop in mind when I created the one in the novel, so I went to the website of the local place and found photos of the interior. I printed them and stuck them to my “character” card for the shop.

Sometimes when I’m writing, all I have to do is flip through these character and setting cards for inspiration to strike.

 

012814 blog cards pic

Theo… or Why I Love Zombies

deviance, genre fiction, Habeas Corpse, paranormal, writing life, zombies January 24, 2014

I’ve had some fun questions from readers about Theo… where the idea came from and how I got the zombie thing under my skin. I’m a mystery writer at heart, really, so the crime fiction angle comes from my science roots and years of snitching my father’s true crime books. My love of zombies is something else, and relaying this requires a look at religion, at pop culture, and my very favorite of all subjects to study… DEVIANCE.

magic-island-photo-2bFirst and foremost, I’ve always been fascinated with the idea of zombies. I’m sure this comes from studying religions and the social implications of religion in general. It’s incredible to me that someone can be so immersed in a religious belief that the power of suggestion alone is enough to make them believe another human being has control of them. I’m planning another blog post on the Haitian zombie phenomena so I won’t go into detail about it, but to carry that kind of faith is both amazing and terrifying.

I took a class in college called “Deviance and Social Control.” We studied some subversive cultures like motorcycle gangs and religious cults, and the differences in how one defines deviance both within and without these subcultures. Fascinating stuff. In my own teaching module on deviance in popular fiction, I offer up the idea that in order to truly build a society in fiction, a writer has to study what their society considers deviant. When I took a look at the Haitian voodoo model, the zombie myth really stands out as deviant.

So within this subculture (Haitian, and to some extent, Creole, voodoo) we have another smaller section of believers who include zombies, botGilgameshCover420h the existence of and the act of transforming others into slaves. Western culture considers voodoo to be deviant (this definition of deviant does not necessarily mean wrong, but rather simply violating agreed-upon social norms), and the zombie is even a step further. So combine my love of religious study and deviance and BAM! There’s the zombie.

Popular culture has long been fascinated with zombies, and the first well-known Western example of this is obviously in George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead. But there are references to flesh-eating dead as far back as in The Epic of Gilgamesh. Our fascination with zombies in one form or another has been around for centuries.

And while deviance can take many, many forms, is there really anything more deviant than the dead rising to consume the living? NO FREAKING WAY.

I love what pop culture has done with the zombie recently, with a few notable exceptions. I love The Walking Dead, both the TV show and the graphic novel. I love Zombieland and Shaun of the Dead. I love Joe McKinney’s Dead City and Jonathan Maberry’s Rot and Ruin. Wonderful stories with tension and danger. But I also love the Haitian zombie, the one under someone else’s control, used as a slave. Theo was born from my love of the zombies of Voudon. Theo’s under the strict control of societal expectations. He wants to be deviant, all the zombies in Habeas Corpse do, but society controls them as surely as the voudon master controls her minions.

Book review: Sacrifice Island

book review, genre fiction, paranormal, reading, Uncategorized January 21, 2014

Happy New Year intrepid readers! I hope the holidays treated everyone well and you all began 2014 refreshed and ready to go!

No?

Me, neither. The holidays tend to drain me… so busy and too much food.

2013 was such a weird year… many good things happened for me (short story and novel release, conventions galore), some bad (I crashed my motorcycle), and it was difficult to watch a few close friends go through some really painful times. I can’t decide if it was a wonderful year or just one that will go down as a strange year. Either way, it’s one for the record books.

So onward and upward!

Let’s start this year right with a review and a recommendation. Sacrifice Island is a novella released last year by Kristin Dearborn.

sacrifice-island This novella takes a monster of myth from the Philippines and turns it into something new. A duo of paranormal investigators heads to a tropical island to write the next chapter in their book on haunted locations. They’re out to uncover a mystery left behind in the diary of a young woman driven to suicide. They get more than they expect.

Jemma’s character grabbed me first. The reader learns early in the story that something’s not quite right with Jemma, but I couldn’t tell exactly what or where it would lead. I was intrigued with Jemma… she’s very cold despite the friendliness of her companion, Alex.

Jemma certainly grabbed me, but it was the setting that kept me reading. Dearborn uses vivid descriptions and lots of detail to really make the island stand out. I know she visited the area, and her familiarity with the tropical setting shows.

Once the investigators reach the island, there’s a lovely slow burn to the climax. Dearborn builds the suspense subtly and the puzzle of what’s happening on the island is in the forefront. Can Jemma and Alex find out what happened to the writer of the diary before the island claims another victim?

I give Sacrifice Island five stars for the intriguing characters, the lush setting, and the awesome monster.

Movie review: Frozen

movie review, movies November 21, 2013

It’s been a little while I’ve done a movie review. I certainly haven’t stopped watching them, and I take notes, but I haven’t written up a review.

A little while ago I watched the 2010 movie Frozen, directed by Adam Greene. It took a little more suspension of disbelief than usual, but I enjoyed it. My husband, who is an avid outdoorsman, couldn’t suspend disbelief quite the same way I could, and he picked this one apart from beginning to end.

Frozen

Frozen stars Kevin Zegers, Emma Bell, and the ever-enjoyable Shawn Ashmore (X-Men and the TV mini-series Earthsea. He played Ged. I was not impressed.). The basic premise is pretty simple: three friends don’t pay for lift tickets at a ski resort and are thus unaccounted for when the lift shuts down for the night… on a Sunday… when the resort is scheduled to be closed for the week. They’re stuck on a lift way up high in subzero temps with no way to get down and no rescue in sight.

Some problems we had (or he had… like I said, I was good to play along without too much complaint):

  • Usually there is a visual check of the lifts at the end of the day. Apparently, employees take the final run of the day and check the lifts as they go down the slopes. He would know this better than I, who only went skiing once in her life, was solidly beaned by the J bar and refused to ever go again. Our movie trio would have been rescued then.
  • The characters should have died the first night. They were inadequately dressed to survive the conditions while sitting still in the air. Again, he would know this. I wasn’t so sure.
  • There were minor inconsistencies in the characters dress and wounds that were pretty apparent at different times during the movie.
  • Without giving away spoilers, one hazard they faced was pretty unbelievable.

I can make some comparisons to the 2003 movie Open Water. Abandonment, struggle for survival against nature, fairly small perspective. If you didn’t like Open Water, you’re safe knowing that you probably won’t care for Frozen.

I recommend this as a weekend time waster just for the entertainment value.

 

End of the year and plans for next year

reading, reading with a purpose, writing life November 19, 2013

So it’s mid-November. I’m thinking about wrapping up 2013 and moving to 2014. This year has been momentous in a lot of ways… some good, some not so good, some devastating, some amazing. A crazy ride all the way.

For the remainder of the month, I’ll be finishing up a rewrite of my thesis novel. I hope to finalize plot elements for the sequel to Habeas Corpse and get another 50 pages or so of it written by the end of December. The sprogs will be off school for half of December, so that will make it challenging.

Looking forward to 2014, I’ve got a few conventions and retreats on my schedule and lots of writing to do.

This is actually my work planner, but the calendar will be different for next year. Geeks unite!

This is actually my work planner, but the calendar will be different for next year. Geeks unite!

One thing I’m putting in my schedule for next year is to read more books, novellas, and short stories. I’m a paper-and-pen planner, so there will be a spot designated in my calendar for weekly titles. I think I’ll try for two novels a month and at least a novella or a couple of short stories a week. I’m going to try for one new movie a month as well, preferably something off the mainstream radar. I’d like to be more active on Goodreads and posting reviews here, so this is my way of getting those goals underway.

Have you done anything like this? Do you have any suggestions for me? Is planning my reading material one month in advance adequate, or should I go further out than that? Thoughts, opinions, suggestions, additions to my to-be-read list?

Let me know! Leave me a comment and tell what I should be reading (remember I want short stories, novellas, and novels) and watching (something out there) in the coming few months. I hope everyone is enjoying Habeas Corpse!

 

HABEAS CORPSE release party and zombie swag!

Habeas Corpse, release, zombies October 31, 2013

Hey everyone!

The release date is so close I can taste it! Or maybe it’s the Twix I just snitched out of the candy jar… but no matter! We’re only two days away from Theo’s Book Birthday!

I have a Facebook author page HERE. Go give me a like, if you would please, and then check out the HABEAS CORPSE RELEASE PARTY Facebook Event HERE. Click to join the event, then come and visit me on Saturday, November 2 (release day!!). Leave me a comment or a question (which I promise to answer) and you will be entered to win one of six great prize boxes, like this one:

That snuggly little neuron is waiting for a squeeze!

That snuggly little neuron is waiting for a squeeze!

 

I can’t wait to share the day with you and finally see Theo out in the world. Poor zombie. He hates attention. Let’s torment him!

Special pre-release sale and pre-orders!

editors, genre fiction, Habeas Corpse, marketing, publishing, reading, release, SHU WPF, zombies October 23, 2013

I started to type the title of this post as BIG NEWS! HUGE NEWS! and then realized that I *might* want to retain a smidge of dignity.

I don’t know why, because I am truly excited for you to finally meet Theo!

First thing, here’s the cover in its entirety… and seriously, Mike Arnzen wrote the most awesome blurb ever.

Habeas Corpse final cover

Here’s the whole blurb:

“Dexter meets Deadite in Nikki Hopeman’s HABEAS CORPSE — and what a treat this novel is. It’s rare that a debut novel can reignite a subgenre, but Nikki Hopeman’s book just might be the most clever zombie story to hit the shelves in quite some time. Hopeman writes a book with brains, in every way:  fun and funny, gory and glorious, this witty tale of an undead ‘Riser’ who bends his unique talents toward investigating crime has single-handedly resurrected my interest in brain-sucking freaks.  Such a clever premise.  I can’t wait to read her next one… but till then I think I’ll happily just read this one again!” — Michael Arnzen, Bram Stoker Award-winning author of Play Dead.

I had the privilege of working with Dr. Arnzen at Seton Hill, and he’s amazingly talented and a really wonderful teacher. I was floored by the blurb and am humbled.

So, on to business!

Habeas Corpse is available at a special pre-release price of $2.99 for the Kindle only for a few days. Get yours here. You can also preorder the paperback edition here.

This has been such an incredible journey for me. I owe a huge shout-out to RJ Cavender, who helped make the book what it is and Marc Ciccarone and Joe Spagnola of Blood Bound Books for seeing the potential in Habeas Corpse. They’ve been so great to work with.

And now it’s up to you, my lovely readers. I hope you love Theo in all his zombie dorkiness as much as I do.

Movie Review: Alyce Kills

movie review, movies October 9, 2013

Alyce-Kills-coverWow… this one took even my jaded sensibilities by surprise.

Alyce Kills is a 2013 release, directed by Jay Lee, of Zombie Strippers and The Slaughter fame. This is the story of a young woman, Alyce, and her descent into madness.

Alyce is a rather unhappy chick. She works for a woman who resents her and likes nasty little passive-aggressive games. Alyce’s love for her best friend, Carroll, is painfully apparent but unrequited. The girls spend an evening together bonding, despite past tensions over what is apparently Alyce’s tendency to lapse into “single white female” obsessiveness. All the fun things are present: red velvet cake, plans for vengeance upon a cheating ex, and almost-but-not-quite lesbian action. This scene brings to the forefront Alyce’s feelings for Carroll and Carroll’s dismissal.

After the girls visit their drug dealer and score some Ecstasy, they return to Alyce’s apartment and go to the roof where Alyce (accidentally?) pushes Carroll off the roof. Alyce begins to lose her mind and Carroll’s apparition (can’t be ghost, because Carroll doesn’t die immediately) visits Alyce in her home. Alyce turns to more drugs, which she trades sex for, to assuage her pain, but the drugs seem to only fuel her own dive into psychosis. After Carroll’s eventual death, Alyce attends the funeral, only to be thrown out for molesting the corpse… in front of all the funeral-goers. I’m not sure why this scene tickled me so much… but it did. Something new is always good. She’s clearly out of control and when she finally decides to take back her life… she’s so creative.

The story is a good one and I enjoyed the movie immensely. I was surprised at how quickly it turned into a gorefest after a really satisfying slow burn, and it’s so gory it’s almost gratuitous, but I’ll forgive Lee for this because of the creativity with which Alyce goes about her revenge.

Recommended for horror fans and those who like chick flicks with a twist (and can handle a good blender scene).