Giving Hope in Fiction

One of the points I touched on in my commencement address in June was on the concept of hope in genre fiction. This may seem like a stretch for some stories, but even in stories like horror, I believe there is an element of hope. Briefly, I will list the mainstream genres of fiction and then how I believe hope ties into that genre.

Science Fiction: I feel part of the hope for me in science fiction is that we’ll reach those levels of technology. However, as a large part of science fiction is to warn not only of the dangers of misusing the technology, the hope is in the message of warning. We hope to avoid the tragedy portrayed in the science fiction story.
Fantasy: In many ways, fantasy holds the same hopes as science fiction. We can see horrible situations to combat the wonder and beauty in the fantasy realm. We hold to our hope the characters will find within themselves what they need to overcome their obstacles, and in turn, we hope we can find those same strengths within ourselves.
Romance: We hope the characters will find the passion and love they seek and that we will find our love and passion in our life.
Mystery/Thriller: A hope that truth and justice will conquer all. We hope for the same justice we would expect in the real world.
Horror: a friend and fellow Seton Hill grad student, Ryan Demos, did a presentation during our time at Seton Hill on horror. Horror is an emotion so powerful it has its own genre. Where is the hope in horror? This seems obvious to me. I hope the horrors in the story are not real or that they will be eliminated quickly so I can get back to normal.
Young Adult: my YA author friends from Seton Hill would drop a literal ton of books on my head if I didn’t include YA in this list. I used to think of YA as only the younger version of existing genres. That would be YA fantasy or something like that, but they are examples of subgenres of YA. (I will have to get one of them on the blog to go into more detail on the genre.) Regardless, I think the hope found in YA of any kind is in learning to deal with the pressures of a situation on top of growing up and everything that part of life entails.

I could have gone into more detail regarding each genre, but for the purposes of this entry, I think conveying hope in some form is needed more in fiction. The Time Heist episode of Doctor Who is able to show this as well, for example. We get a rather cynical accusation for why the Doctor calls himself such, which I enjoyed given my last post. The assertion is the Doctor calls himself so because of his professional detachment. I can see why people would feel this way with him, but I think it would be more true with the War Doctor or just brief moments through various regenerations. In the end, the episode yesterday was about hope. The characters acted with a hope everything the architect did would work out for them, and The Teller, in the end was hoping to be reunited with its kind. I’m also a fan of the show Castle, we all hope everything will be okay with the characters given the season finale last spring. Although, logic dictates as the show is called Castle, it will be okay. However, even if Castle is found alive and well in the season premiere, will they resume the wedding? Or are they going to delay the wedding some more so the show can go on with more relationship strain. Here I am curious regarding how other viewers will weigh in in the subject. Do they hope for the wedding to happen sooner or later?
As an author, I have written my fair share of scary scenes or troubling situations. I always feel the responsibility to bring an element of hope into my writing. A large portion of this is because I got into writing because of the adventures other writers took me on in their books. However, further along in my career, I understand there is a subtle art to drawing out what readers want in a book. Now, think of doing a series. Those elements of hope for the characters will need to be drawn out even further. It’s basically the point of the Sword of Truth series, Richard and Kahlan don’t get the peace and quiet they deserve because something always gets in the way be it magic, politics, or tyrants. Whether a series or a one off book, I doubt readers would continue to come back to your work if you don’t present some element of hope in your story.


Listen to your fear and desperation – continued thoughts on Doctor Who

After only a few weeks of blogging on the weekend, I’ve already messed up my self-imposed pattern.  My excuse is because I’ve been mulling over a few topics.  As a writer, I’m intrigued by the choices other writers make in their work.  Over the last few weeks, I’ve focused my blog on either movies or Doctor Who episodes and my feelings regarding them.  Last Saturday, the episode “Listen” aired for Doctor Who.  My thoughts since then have been centered on what the message of the episode implies and how I feel about the current Doctor.  I’ve been going over the last couple of seasons/doctors recently to compare the personalities of the characters.  This week, I rewatched the episode “Vincent and the Doctor”.  As one who understands the poison of depression, I cannot help getting emotional over the end of the episode.  For those who haven’t seen Vincent and the Doctor, the Doctor travels back to the unappreciated and under-valued Vincent Van Gogh.  There are some beautiful elements in the episode where we see how Vincent sees what others cannot, thus lending to the beauty of his art.

Vincent and the Doctor
Vincent and the Doctor-Doctor Who Season 5. Photo courtesy of

It’s as though the writers wanted those who suffer as Vincent does, to feel hope that they may just see their world differently and will be able to see the beauty in the world others are too blind to see.  By the end of the episode, the Doctor gives Vincent a gift many would love to receive.

I weep with Vincent.  Who doesn’t want to know their hard work will be remembered?  Who does anything today without having a hope what they do will make any kind of a difference? I really don’t think there are many who don’t care how they’ll be remembered.

Let’s bring it forward to the current Doctor and what we’ve seen from him.  I think he’s desperate and afraid he’s been wasting his time.  This should be obvious to fans.  Even if you’ve only watched since 2005, we see a pattern.  The 9th Doctor is kind of a rogue.  He’s fresh from annihilating his people and the Daleks in the time war and almost seems reluctant, and yet joyous, to have Rose come along with him.  He revels that he’s the oncoming storm.  The 10th Doctor, seems playful and spontaneous.  Maybe some of that is because he’s been alone for so long and now able to show Rose he can regenerate and is willing to just play around.  But then Rose is lost, Martha doesn’t stick around, and Donna has to have her memory wiped to set up her role in the End of Time.  Yet, those last few specials with the Doctor, he’s starting to become desperate to change time even if it is supposed to be a fixed event.


After his regeneration into the 11th, I really start to see his desperation.  He’s trying to hold onto the carefree nature of 10, but has to figure out what is going on with the crack in time and space.  However, even after solving that, he can’t relax because everyone is trying to hunt him down and, as he says at the beginning of season 7, he’s gotten too big and needs to limit his presence in the universe.

The Doctor falls hard after the Angels take Manhattan and decides to seclude himself.  But then he’s called to action again to solve the mystery of the impossible girl.  After that, we have the 12th Doctor (aka the 13th regeneration).  I believe his desperation is at a high point.  He’s not playing around anymore as he was before.  He expected his life to end and rather than celebrate his new life from the Time Lords, he’s acting desperate.  It seems he’s doing those things he felt he never got around to doing, somehow after 2000 years, before he runs out of time again.  But where is this sense of desperation coming from? Is it really the personality the writers want to give the Doctor? Or is it that the show runners are worried, needlessly, about the life of the show and are trying to get out the stories they have left to do? I’m hoping for the former.

The Doctor asks Clara, "Am I a good man?" - Doctor Who Season 8 Photo courtesy BBC One
The Doctor asks Clara, “Am I a good man?” – Doctor Who Season 8 Photo courtesy BBC One

Our current Doctor Who is certainly darker.  We’ve seen that in many ways so far.  I’ve never really understood why Clara isn’t around for the adventures as consistently as previous companions, especially given how excited she was to meet him.  Add to that, I thought we saw some realization dawn in her at the end of the season premier that she needs to be there for the Doctor more.  Maybe she is, in her own way, responding to his needs.  He implied his mistake was in thinking of himself as her boyfriend. Maybe he is forcing some distance between them and she’s respecting it.  I don’t like it. I think he’s still grieving over the loss of Amy and Rory, the change in his life, and trying to come to grips with his old fears. Hence, the “Listen” episode.  I feel Clara is going to be even more wary of her involvement with the Doctor now she knows she’s the origin of the fear of something under the bed. This could be a very disastrous setup.

Clara grabs the boy Doctor - Doctor Who Season 8 "Listen" Photo courtesy of
Clara grabs the boy Doctor – Doctor Who Season 8 “Listen” Photo courtesy of

I’m not entirely sure if the Doctor is acting out of desperation to be known or have a legacy.  I do feel that his purpose isn’t on what it is supposed to be. He needs to be finding Gallifrey. Or was that not the point of revealing to us that Gallifrey didn’t fall and just needs to be found? Or is he struggling with the decision when to find his home? So many questions. I still like this Doctor in many ways, such as acting his age a bit more to start.  But he’s treading a fine line with being almost a jerk and not wanting us to like him as he distances himself from Clara.  I think it’s a common response for someone dealing with grief and pain and it’s apparent in the Doctor.  Yet, every time the writers have him do something which may turn us off from the Doctor, they give him something which shows to us he still cares and wants us to be the best we can be. For example, in the episode “Listen”, it is what he says about Fear.  Fear makes us strong like a superhero. Take that Yoda! And with that, we get new insight into who the Doctor is in his core. He’s afraid, and even though he says he’s been running for a long time, we know throughout the years he’s been turning his head to be super in the moment of need and helps others. Which brings an interesting question: Is the Doctor the Doctor because he wants to help? Or is he the Doctor because of he’s afraid of his fear and is trying to embrace it? How long can he do that? The Master went mad with what he saw afterall.

Dk.JPG -d.k.

Geek vs Bully: post comic con and FanX reviews

I attended my first comic con in April, the Salt Lake FanX convention and wrote the following. I’ve decided to finally post it to the blog and follow it up with my new observations from this recent Salt Lake City Comic Con.

Written in April, Geek vs Bully

 At 31 years old, I’ve come to a realization regarding the Geek and Bully mentality and impact which is frightening and shameful. Simply put, at 31 years old, I’m still very embarrassed and shy about my love for scifi and fantasy, Star Trek and Star Wars, video games and comic books, and Legos and Action figures. Yes, I’m still a child at heart. I didn’t grow up with comic books, my indulgence in the medium came to fruition in college. However, not too long ago I attended my first comic con and realized, I’m not as brave and haven’t accepted myself in ways the other attendees have.
Shortly after arriving at the comic con, I immediately began judging others in my mind with thoughts like, “Wow, you really should have checked yourself in the mirror before stepping outside.” But a friend of mind corrected me and said the individuals most likely did check themselves out in the mirror and were proud of the costume they put together and proud of being a fan. The only thing I was proud of about myself at that moment? Nothing. I immediately felt horrible for judging them even if only in my mind. What’s wrong with me? And then I realized, I was picked on for years for liking Star Wars and Star Trek. If anyone caught me playing with an action figure after the age of 10, yes it happened, I was bullied and teased. So much so, that I tried to hide what I liked to read and watch throughout high school and into college. I tried to like the books my family liked, but they didn’t hold my attention. In college, I found the section of the campus library with fantasy novels but didn’t rent them. I’d grab a copy, hide in a rarely used section of the library, and read in secret. I didn’t want to borrow the copy and take it back to the dorms for fear I’d be ridiculed.
Fast forward almost ten years, I’m married, have children, and slowly collecting collectable figures, not just action figures. I love my e-reader because at 31 years old, no one sees I’m reading a Star Wars novel. I can’t bring myself to openly celebrate May the Fourth without hiding behind games and activities I’ve made for the kids under the disguise it is to introduce them to Star Wars.
Seriously, I’m 31 and need to get over my issues. My wife mostly thinks my geek side is cute. Every once in a while it overwhelms her. But the bullying mentality needs to stop. It keeps me wanting to hide parts of my personality, and it shaped my initial thoughts when seeing others at comic con. Bullying isn’t just mean, it can warp the mentality of individuals for years to come, and it’s just not cool. Why do we put up with bullies? No matter how many articles I read trying to explain their behavior, I’ve never found an adequate reason. Regardless of the reasons, it’s negatively shaped who I am, and I want my children to know it’s absolutely perfect to like nerdy things.


Over the last few months since FanX, I’ve struggled to come to grips with who I am and how I will present myself as an author at these events.  On the recommendation of my critique partner and fellow SHU grad, Cody Langille, I joined the HWA and the local chapter so I could help with the booth at the comic con this last weekend.  As I walked around the convention center, I’m proud to say I didn’t feel so judgmental and actually proud for the other attendees.  I enjoyed this comic con much more than in April because I allowed myself to enjoy and bask in the wonders there. 

Smaug wakes at SLCC Weta exhibit

I networked with people and meet new artist whose style I like and could see doing cover art or illustration for my children’s series.  We learned a lot about running a booth which gathers attention and how we can increase our coverage at future events.  I’m glad I got to go and openly embraced my nerd side.  Stay nerdy my friends.



If I Stay and True love

I took my wife out on a date tonight. Yes, I believe in continual courtship, but that’s a topic for an upcoming volume in the From Dude to Dad series. We had a babysitter so it could just be the two of us, went to dinner to celebrate changes in my day job, and my wife picked the movie, If I Stay.
I’ll say this upfront, I won my wife over by enjoying chick-flicks. So I was willing to take her to this movie, especially given how many movies I’ve picked lately. I’m not going to give a full rundown of the movie for anyone, it’s not the purpose of this blog. However, as I did last week with the Doctor Who premiere, I’m going to focus my thoughts on some messages I took from the movie.
If I Stay had moments I enjoyed, and those I didn’t. While the characters are teenagers, I did appreciate that they didn’t find each other because they were the attractive one and the nerd who stumbled into each other or any of the other clichés used in teen romances. I really liked how he notices her because she’s playing the cello. That’s cool, and different. I enjoy showing a relationship built on something of substance. While I don’t care for the puppy love aspects at the beginning of their relationship, we are able to see their growth and failings in their relationship all the way until the very final moment on the screen. In the end, I feel the message is about True Love.
So what is True Love? I’m not distinguishing between romantic or family true love, just the concept in general. As my wife and I dissected the movie on the drive home, we came to the definition that true love is about sacrifice. Think about it, Mia’s dad says parents sacrifice for their children. You can’t really show any more love than that, can you. The characters sacrifice plans, dreams, money, love, and personal definitions of happiness and give it all up for someone else. That’s what True Love is all about. As a religious individual, a quote comes to mind. “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” John 15:13. The scripture is referring to Christ and his sacrifice for mankind, but it’s clearly a lesson for the rest of us. I believe it is true love. Why else would two individuals change their personal goals they may have held from childhood and focus on having children and helping them grow? Why else did Mia’s father in If I Stay quit the band if it wasn’t because he loved his daughter?
I’m glad there is a film which shows this by the end of the film. All romantic relationships have their puppy love stage, but what made this film interesting, is the blend of young adult issues with very grown up decisions. And in the end, learning to sacrifice for the happiness of someone you love.

The Doctor Returns or being free of judgment

I love Doctor Who for many reasons. I have some early memories of driving across the country to visit my grandparents, arriving at their house late at night because my parents were tired of driving and made a push to get it done, and seeing my grandpa watching something strange on the television while we were rushed through hugs with grandma and then off to bed. I would later learn it was the Doctor fighting the Daleks.

Lately, as a parent and father, I have fallen in love with the message of the Doctor. I love when the 11th Doctor tells us he travels with companions because he wants to experience the wonder again through their eyes. I love how, from the first episode with Matt Smith, we see him encouraging strangers to be better than they are.

Some may wonder why I am starting this way. I’m not going to do a minute by minute exploration with how I felt about the season 8 premier of Doctor Who. However, there were some things which happened or were said in the episode which resounded with me. As I mentioned above, there are many messages in the series I love, and along the lines of challenging people to be better than we are, there was a message at the beginning of the premiere which I felt was directed more to the audience than to Clara. Madame Vastra says Clara is judging the Doctor for regenerating with an older face and appearance and basically accuses Clara of being shallow. Why do I think this is directed to the audience more than Clara? Many, if not most, of the new generation of Whovians say it takes them a while to get used to a new Doctor and begin to be judgmental with design choices by the showrunners. I think, with the trailers showing a darker side of the Doctor, the showrunners are asking us to be patient and trust them with the direction they will take the Doctor and Clara.

There is also the larger message, like many other Doctor messages, that we’d do well to not be so quick to judge someone. This is reinforced with the phone call Clara receives at the end of the episode. We are already shocked that the Doctor is having a harder time than before with adjusting to his new body, then he leaves Clara, TWICE! But then, when we approach the end of the episode and are ready to pass judgement, reconnect to social media free of the fear of spoilers, and we see the phone call. A man who has experienced so much more than we will ever know, asks Clara to help him. Then he asks her to really look at him. How heart wrenching! Can you imagine living and saving people for so many centuries and not feel like your one true friend is even looking at you?

That might actually sound familiar to some people. Not the living for centuries, obviously. Far too many people feel invisible to those around them. And, sadly, when they are finally noticed, it is in a moment of personal weakness, where they need help, and they are labeled something horrible and demoralizing.

As a writer, I have decided to address certain topics as often as I can. One of those topics, is the problem of the bully. I believe everyone has experienced at least one instance where they were on the receiving end of malicious and/or inconsiderate comments or actions. Regardless of whether you have been the victim of only one or a thousand taunts, you know the sting of it. And yet it continues to happen with each generation. My children are too young to watch Doctor Who. As my wife says, “It is too scary.” My immediate response was half joking and half serious. I said, “I am okay with it being scary. When they are old enough to handle it, they will know it is scary, but will also know something far more important. They will know the Doctor is always there to make it right.” This is the message of Doctor Who. It is a message of hope. Everyone will experience pain throughout life. But there is always something to hope for. And there is never a reason to judge someone else because you don’t know what they have been through. I am excited the Doctor is back and thrilled to see the writers are right back into showing us how to be better people. I do long for the day when we hear more stories of courage and hope than we do of strife and turmoil.


Graduation and Career Change

The winds of change are upon me. I’m not entirely sure how well I will come out of this change. I find myself in a position to change my day job once again. This time, the change of jobs is also a change of careers.  While related to my current job, my new form of employment will let me use more of the skills I’ve developed throughout my time in the MFA program at Seton Hill University, and not in ways I had expected.  I realize now that I have not spent much time reflecting on my graduation. The entire experience still hasn’t settled into my mind.

The final week in the MFA program came in a whirlwind. After a few weeks of 60+ hour work weeks to finish a project I wasn’t prepared to do, I boarded a plane in Salt Lake City to fly out to Pennsylvania for my final residency. I felt completely unprepared for the residency compared to previous semesters. I had not been able to get to the workshop pieces I had to critique, I still had not practiced my thesis defense (in truth, my defense was still unplanned at that point), I still needed to work on my pitches for the visiting editor, and I was nominated to give the commencement address at the end of the week. While I prided myself in keeping the last a secret from my wife and family, my anxiety was reaching high points. However, if I have learned nothing else from salary employment, it is budgeting project deadlines.  I had to force myself to only work on what was due the next day.

First, my thesis defense. I had a basic intro noted in a notebook, but had not figured out which scenes from my thesis novel I would be reading. I honestly had not finished what I was going to say and read until the hour before I was to present. I refused to allow my wife or family to come out to the reading because I knew it would be harder for me to focus and remain calm. Instead, I set up my computer with Livestream so I could stream and record the presentation.  There were maybe twenty people in the room, but many more watched the presentation afterwards so it seemed to work well. My thesis defense can be viewed here:

D.K. Godard Thesis Reading and Defense

Thursday and Friday kind of went by in a blur with the nights and early mornings spent critiquing the pieces I had left to do and attending thesis readings from my classmates. Friday night was the second SHU book signing I participating in. Last year I sold more novels than I did of my non-fiction work. This year was a complete opposite. Interesting to see how different the market can be venue to venue, year to year.

My wife and father-in-law arrived that night and were able to see me at the book signing for a bit.  The next day I pitched to a professional editor who came as a guest speaker and she requested to see some of my work.  Still, I did not tell my wife and family about giving the commencement address the following day. I am sure I still appeared nervous and frazzled even though they thought I was done with all of the stressful parts of residency.  I went back onto campus early Sunday morning so I could finish writing my commencement address and practice it without giving the secret away to my wife.

By the time commencement arrived, I was lined up outside the hall with the rest of the graduates in our robes when my wife and parents came to say hi.  They had come in through the back and hadn’t seen the program yet.  After they went in, I turned to my class and said “they still don’t know I am giving the address.” A few minutes later, the family came marching out again shocked and surprised I had kept them in the dark for so long. I am grateful for technology because they recorded the address: shown here.

Seton Hill June 2014 MFA Writing Popular Fiction Commencement

Now, a month and half later, I still have to look at the diploma on the wall to remind myself it is over. I will try to attend the alumni conference each June. I am trying to work in some way my family can come with me as a vacation, but there isn’t much for them to do in Greensburg.

I am impatient with my degree. I have applied to various teaching positions, editing, copywriting, and technical writing positions without much luck. However, an opportunity came up for me to rejoin an old team and a new career path. I won’t be using my writing skills as heavily as I hoped, but I will be using the classroom planning and curriculum design aspects of the teaching component from my degree.

The change is here and that is all that is important. It has been so easy to fill my free time with job hunting instead of writing. Hopefully, I can change that after I start the new position.


January 2014 Writing Popular Fiction Residency

It is almost embarrassing how long it has been since my last blog post.  Last residency, I did a decent job of recapturing each day the morning after.  I clearly didn’t do that this time so this post will be longer than most.  Hopefully, a future Seton Hill Master of Fine Arts candidate (MFA) in Writing Popular Fiction (WPF) will find this post before their first residency and find something of value in it.  If not, well, at least this serves as a form of journal for myself.

This was a hard residency for me to attend in many ways.  It’s my second to last one as a student in the MFA program.  In June, the experience will be completely different because I will be reading from my novel on one of the nights and then graduating on the final day.  While I knew many of the students that had graduated in previous terms, it hit harder at this graduation because those graduating were people who started just before me and the ones I knew the best.  I had actually applied to the program to start with their group, but the seats were already full and I was asked to wait until the following term to start.  It was hard to decide which thesis readings to attend each night because I had spent so much time around these people and wanted to listen to all of them.  They are truly remarkable writers.

At the beginning of every residency, Dr. Al Wendland, the program director, hosts a opening reception and sets the theme for the residency.  The theme this time around was how to bring more emotion into your writing and in your genre.  I felt this was a perfect focus and would work well with my teaching module later in the week.

The first morning of every residency, we are split into mixed genre groups to discuss the common reading for that term.  I started the program with Mystery and we read The Snowman by Jo Nesbo.  Next, we read The Hunger Games for our Young Adult selection.  We moved on to Romance (although it ended up being a poor excuse for a YA Romance) and read Fated.  Last June was Science Fiction and Ready Player One (very fun read for those that grew up in the 80s and appreciate the pop culture references).  This semester was the Horror genre and we read NOS4A2 by Joe Hill.  I liked the paranormal aspects of the novel and the unique powers with a cost system he created, particularly with Vic.  But I had to skip a lot of pages when other characters came on the page because I do not like reading about children in harm or people thinking about doing horrible things to children.  I get that a lot of the Horror genre is about the loss of innocence, but I can’t do stories involving harming children.  Regardless, we had an interesting discussion about the Horror genre as a whole and the book individually.  In the end, I was more set than ever to pull pieces from my thesis novel so that it would stay as Dark Fantasy rather than Horror.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying I have anything against the Horror genre.  I certainly believe that good stories have many elements of Horror within them to help raise the stakes for the characters.  I just can’t bring myself to embrace certain subjects and write about them to be in the Horror market.  Just a personal thing.  My mentor writes Horror.  I requested him partly because I expect him to be able to help me see the line between Dark Fantasy and Horror so I can stay on the side where I am comfortable.

As this was my fifth residency, I was required to take a session on reading my own work aloud as well as what is expected of us when we read from our thesis at the next and final residency.  I’m glad I took the module last June on reading aloud because we had more time for reading our own work and getting feedback.  This shorter session was more about how much time we should plan on reading from the novel in June so there is time to answer questions.

After lunch I attended the module on Planning and Plotting the Romance Series with Felicia Mason (Amazon Booklist).  It was an amazing module.  Being one of two guys in the entire class, I was a little nervous.  But they all encouraged and praised us for venturing out and we got fat on chocolates and cookies.  The best part of the module was the application.  Rather than just lecturing to us about techniques used in plotting and planning a book series, we went through various stages of brainstorming the general series idea and then the process of coming up with the general idea for each book in the series.

Sunday started with the first session of writing critiques.  It’s one of my favorite parts of residency.  Your own work of 10 pages is critiqued on one of the days while you work with others in the program on theirs on the other days.  I have been in some nasty workshop sessions before coming to Seton Hill.  You don’t get that in this program.  We are all there to learn and help each other grow as writers.  Occasionally, someone will take the critiques hard.  But they usually are able to see, soon afterwards, that they weren’t being attacked at a personal level and that their writing can improve with advice given in the session.  Selfishly, these sessions also help me see how much I’ve learned in the technical aspects of writing and it is fun to submit the first 10 pages of a new idea to see how it is received as a concept for work after I finish the program.

I have an idea for a series, but I can’t decide if I want it to be a mystery or a romantic suspense series.  In a past residency, I took a module on planning the mystery series.  A common theme that worried me about my idea was that in a true mystery, nothing can happen in the story that isn’t directly related to the mystery.  Including relationship scenes.  I think my misconception of this stems from watching shows like Castle which gives us the human element of the story as well as the mystery.  That is why I took the Planning and Plotting a Romance Series and the Cozy Mystery module so I could hopefully find where my series idea best fits.  The Sunday module on Writing the Cozy Mystery by Barb Miller (Author website) was especially helpful if I want to turn it into a mystery series.  I feel cozy mysteries are an avenue I could explorer because it isn’t required of the writer (and in many ways enforced) to put in lots of gore and sex into the mystery story.  Now that I have kids, I have a hard time thinking about writing anything too graphic.

Sunday evening we met with out mentors to plan our the goals and deadlines for the oncoming semester.  As this is my last semester in the program, I have to finish my thesis novel and have it edited and turned into Jon Sprunk (Author website) and Scott A. Johnson (Author website) by April 15!  I’ve got some work to do.  It’s really not that bad.  Only two pages a day.  At 25o words a page it’s only 500 a day.  I already typed out well over that for this post alone.  The problem is sitting down and getting the words to come.  I’ve been struggling in that department for a while now.  I keep getting ideas for other projects and not for my thesis.  Focusing my time and energy on this thesis is going to be a challenge.  I’ve planned out what needs to happen from this point in the novel until the end.  I’m just having trouble finding that word to start off the next section.  I’m tempted to skip this immediate scene in the novel and go write the end and then come back.  But then I’m worried that I’ll get stuck there and jump again and never finish a scene.  Oh, the problems of a writer 😉

This residency also marked a big milestone in the program.  I had to teach for 45-50 minutes to a class of my fellow students and a faculty grader Monday morning.  I was probably more nervous the night before as I made the preparation of the ballistics gel than when it was my turn to teach.  The session went very well.  Everyone seemed to have a good time hitting the ballistics gel to get a better understanding of what happens when their characters hit another person.  I’ve made the gel before, but this time I put pork ribs on one side so they could hear and feel the difference when hitting the block on the gel side versus the rib side.  Afterwards, they drafted a paragraph of action using what senses they experienced to bring new details to their writing.  In my discussion with the faculty grader afterwards, we agreed that the only thing I really could do to improve the session would be to have them draft the paragraph first, then do the demonstrations, and then revise the paragraph afterwards.  I’m just glad that the demonstration worked as well as it did and that I passed my teaching module.  Again, a big milestone in the project.  All that’s left is to turn in my completed thesis!

Honestly, after my teaching module, the rest of the residency was a blur.  I didn’t care if my workshop piece flopped because my intent was to submit the first pages of an idea and see if it was interesting for readers or a complete dud.  I took a lot of notes in Nicole Peeler’s (Author Website) finding an agent and writing query letters.  I’m hoping that I feel more confident with my thesis novel when it is finished and inspired to send it out to agents.  My workshop piece was Tuesday morning and did about as well as I expected, another idea to put on the shelf until this program is over.  Afterwards, we had some sessions with our guest speaker Philip Palmer on Fiction Masterpieces and Truth in Fiction.

The final day of residency is always the fastest and not just because it’s shorter.  The schedule is flipped a little with the final module in the morning and then workshops after lunch before graduation at 3:15.  In the morning module, I attended Scott A. Johnson’s session on Rituals, Religions, and Magic in fiction.  As I’m using all three in my thesis novel, I would have been pretty stupid to not attend that module.

I’m not ready for this program to be over in June.  If I can just sell enough books to have the money to come out every June for the alumni In Your Write Mind conference and book signing that corresponds with the dates of residency, I’d be happy.  The atmosphere in this program is powerful and energizing.  And the connections and friendships we make are life long and life changing.  I know I’m a stronger writer because of this program and I want to stay involved and give back as much as I can.

And with those words, my recap is done.  I’m off to another week of my awesome day job (not being sarcastic here, it’s pretty sweet and the company is awesome) and hopefully finding the time each day to write my two pages!

To all that may read this, thank you for your time and may your own writing endeavors and dreams come to fruition.

Declaring Independence


This isn’t just a day to blow stuff up. Although that may be fun. It’s a day where we should remember the events that led to the signing of the Declaration of Independence. I think it’s also a day where we should dedicate ourselves to the improvement of this great nation.

I recently attended a college graduation ceremony and witnessed something that has bothered me since. One of the heads of the program would not sing the national anthem. Now I remember kids acting the same way in school because they didn’t agree with one thing or another. To which I think not singing the national anthem is a lame result. This nation was created for change. We have a system that allows change. We just have some people that are not up to the responsibility. So I say that instead of refusing to sing a song because you don’t agree with what is happening in the nation, get involved. There are so many opportunities to be involved in your community that have a greater possibility for improving this nation than to just fold your arms and refuse to sing.

I firmly believe that this is one of the many ideals in the Founding Fathers. They wanted to create a system where we can be involved. So get involved. The system is set so get involved. Go to town meetings. Write your officials. Follow their twitter and facebook pages and respond to their questions and posts. Get on their email lists. Don’t rely on the news networks. They’re all just companies. Go directly to the source. The men and women serving in government.

I actually do this. I didn’t vote for the Representative in my area, but I still recognize that he is the elected official and his office is great at answering my emails when I have questions. I’ve looked into our town meetings and seeing when I can attend those. You don’t have to do that if it isn’t your thing. But you should follow the social media feeds of your representatives because you can communicate your feelings from your phone.

There. I’m done. Have a great Fourth of July and stay safe.

#SHURES June 2013 Residency for Writing Popular Fiction – Day 5

The last day usually goes by in a blur.  We’re all dog tired from the week of work and especially the long night party the night before.  We have our final module of the residency and then all but those graduating have one last critique session.  The main point of the final day is really the graduates.  It’s sad that so many of the people I looked up to will not be here next residency.  But we wish you well!  Congrats and we’ll be looking for your published novels.

#SHURES June 2013 Residency for Writing Popular Fiction Day 4

What an awesome way to start the day.  When you reach your 5th residency in the program, you have to deliver your 45 minute teaching module.  The students I attended covered Showing vs Telling, Dynamic Characters, and the 15 beat story structure.

Oh man! They completely saved my thesis!  Especially the 15 beat story structure.  I actually feel confident that I will finish the thesis this term so I can spend the last term editing the work.  I don’t have to stress about how I’m going to make it work anymore.  I just have to find the time to sit down and write.  Good thing the few favorite shows I watch won’t be back until the fall.

After the lunch break, we had the guest speaker sessions with some visiting agents who read through our query letters or sample writing to give us advice on what to fix to be more effective.  Lots. Of. Notes.

Long dinner break where I sat down and applied the 15 beat story structure to my thesis!

Quick Q&A session with the agents about what are the best practices and what is being read.

Afterwards, the Alumni of the program held a Princess Bride themed ball and raffle.  I made an appearance, but I’m so burned out from the week that I left early to get some sleep.