Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Dick Wolf Lied to Me

I grew up on Law & Order. Lenny Briscoe was the first TV cop I ever liked, and to this day, watching the old reruns, I still love him. Jack McCoy, while a sleazy, had a good heart and I was pleased to see him work his way up through three elected DAs and then becoming the boss himself.

Everything I learned about the justice system, I first learned from Law & Order. The guilty were usually punished, and those who were innocent were quickly cleared. The District Attorney's office, first and foremost, could not pursue cases without probable cause. Also, they were competent.

I always knew that Law & Order was TV and fundamental elements of the process were changed to make the show more dramatic. But still, with 456 shows over 20 seasons, one would assume that it wasn't completely made up; there had to be some truth to the stories.

Recently, a long-time friend was accused of a horrible crime. I have known her for over seven years and cannot believe that she committed the crime of which she is accused. As such, I am no longer a passive observer of our justice system.

After the arrest, I went to the arraignment, hoping to--as I had been told since I was 10--show her that I was there to support her. The lawyers were there, but my friend was not. She joined the proceedings via closed-circuit TV. She did not know who had attended the arraignment until she was told once bail was posted.

After the arraignment in late August, her next court date was in early October. This was the preliminary hearing, where the district attorney laid out their case. This was when I realized that real life was not like I had always been told it was on TV.

The assistant attorney assigned was no Claire Kincaid. She was not an Abby Carmichael, or Jaimee Ross.... I would have even been happy with a Serena Southerlyn. But no. She was not articulate, not polished; she was not even that organized. The State's case boiled down to "she had the opportunity to do it and no one else has said they did it." But, despite the lack of evidence, the case was bound over for trial.

Unfortunately--unlike what Dick Wolf told me all those years--this is a long and arduous process. One month later, at the beginning of November, my friend pleaded not guilty to all charges. This was when the DA amended the charges to include a charge that boiled down to "she may not have done it, but she knew what was going on" (Connie Rubirosa would have probably charged her with "conspiracy").

At the end of November, her lawyer (who I have much respect for... I could see him going toe to toe with Ben Stone) filed a motion to dismiss because the state only had circumstantial evidence. A hearing was scheduled for December 9. The assistant district attorney--who had been given notice at the beginning of November that he would be preparing a motion to dismiss--asked for, and was granted, a continuance to come up with her answer. I can emapthize with that; She would have only had 10 days to prepare for the hearing and Canyon County Idaho is having budget issues and I'm sure the DA's office--what with the county prosecutor having been accused of embezzlement this year--is rather swamped.

However, that is no excuse for not having filed her response, or sent the paperwork to my friend's lawyer. She had still not done her job--the job I pay her to do--in the extra two weeks, complaining of too much work to do.

Turns out, she also was supposed to file updated paperwork regarding the new charges back in November. Fortunately, the judge had some choice words for her, and her wasting the court's time. Adam Schiff, even Arthur Branch, would have even more choice words, but I think the county Prosecutor's Office is rather busy with the possible prosecution of their previous boss.

So, the case has been extended once again. Jack and Claire would have never allowed this to go on this long--the only things that have actually happened between the middle of August and the end of December is the arrest, arraignment, and pleading. The alleged event happened back in late January, 2011. I don't remember any of Dick Wolf's stories spanning an entire year.

As both a journalist and a writer of fiction, I know that sometimes the truth needs to be "spruced up" a little to make it a bit more palatable when telling a story. This is why historical fiction sells so much better than history books themselves. But, just like when you learn that there is no Santa Claus, or when your favorite athlete is accused of taking steroids, it is still a let-down.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Guest Poster: Kim Koning!

'Twas the Night before Christmas

Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St Nicholas soon would be there.

The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads.
And mamma in her ‘kerchief, and I in my cap,
Had just settled our brains for a long winter’s nap.

When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter.
Away to the window I flew like a flash,
Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.

The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow
Gave the lustre of mid-day to objects below.
When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a miniature sleigh, and eight tinny reindeer.

With a little old driver, so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment it must be St Nick.
More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name!

"Now Dasher! now, Dancer! now, Prancer and Vixen!
On, Comet! On, Cupid! on, on Donner and Blitzen!
To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!
Now dash away! Dash away! Dash away all!"

As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky.
So up to the house-top the coursers they flew,
With the sleigh full of Toys, and St Nicholas too.

And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof
The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.
As I drew in my head, and was turning around,
Down the chimney St Nicholas came with a bound.

He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot.
A bundle of Toys he had flung on his back,
And he looked like a peddler, just opening his pack.

His eyes-how they twinkled! his dimples how merry!
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,
And the beard of his chin was as white as the snow.

The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath.
He had a broad face and a little round belly,
That shook when he laughed, like a bowlful of jelly!

He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself!
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head,
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread.

He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
And filled all the stockings, then turned with a jerk.
And laying his finger aside of his nose,
And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose!

He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.
But I heard him exclaim, ‘ere he drove out of sight,
"Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good-night!"

- Clement Clarke Moore (1779 - 1863)

This sums up my Childhood Christmas's for me. Christmas Eve is the big celebration in my family. This is the evening when magic comes alive and imagination sparkles in the eyes. My mother is German so we grew up celebrating Christmas on Christmas Eve. We don't wait until Christmas Day to celebrate it. My friends in my childhood were always envious that I got to open Christmas gifts before they did. My parents always made a big deal about the magic of Christmas. My dad used to go outside at dusk and he would start ringing bells so that my brother and I believed the reindeer were outside. Then we would all sit down to a table set in the lounge (sitting room) before a beautifully decorated Christmas tree. There would be silver, red, green and gold wrapped parcels under the tree all teasing us to open them. We used to open the gifts one by one, each one having a turn to open one gift at a time. As we were opening gifts we would be eating delicious snacks my mother had prepared all day. There would be Christmas music on the cd player and my brother and I would often sing along to all the songs.

As we got older, the Christmas Eve was extended to midnight and as midnight struck my dad would read the story of the Nativity from the bible. He would remind my brother and I that although Christmas was a time of presents, good food, family time and wonder...the most important gift of all was the birth of Christ. My parents brought us up knowing that Christmas was a chance to celebrate love, cherish family and embrace friends.

I still look forward to Christmas Eve and except for 2 Christmas Eve's, I have spent every Christmas Eve with my family. My mother still makes a huge effort and I treasure her for that. I hope to continue this Christmas Eve tradition with my own family one day.
So for me Christmas is about....

"Twas the night before Christmas..."


Thank you for hosting me on your blog Rikki. It has been lovely meeting you and so many other authors for #HolidayHop.
Happy HolidayHop and Merry Christmas to you and your readers/followers.

I am hosting a reader's contest on my blog for the #HolidayHop where lucky readers can be in the run to win an amazing anthology of short stories by 34 incredible authors, including The Neil Gaiman. The anthology also includes my own debut short story: The Ring of Fire. All details of my contest, the rules and the anthology can be found below at this address:

Who is Kim Koning?

I am a Dark Paranormal Fiction Author, Poetess, Blogger and Traveller.

I see ghosts and tell tales of their visits.
I write by the light of the moon and under the gaze of the stars.
Draw up a chair, light a candle, close the windows and let me weave
you stories of darkness and gateways of light.

Open the gateway of darkness at:
I can be found Wrestling the Muse :
I also have a create-inspiration blog:
I can also be found on Twitter @AuthorKimKoning
Like my facebook page here:
My first short story is available in this anthology along with 33 other great authors including The Neil Gaiman:

Thursday, December 15, 2011

What DID Mary Know?

Welcome to all my hoppers and those just stopping by.

Well, it's Christmas again, and that means Christmas music. And Christmas music means that you'll probably hear, at least once, the song "Mary Did You Know?"

Full disclosure: I don't necessarily like the song. I don't really have anything against it, it's just not my cup of tea (or hot chocolate). No matter what version it is, I just don't like the song. Of course, the fact that I have to answer the questions each time I hear the song might have something to do with that.

My second novel, "What Difference Does Seven Days Make?" (out on ebook early 2012), required a lot of research into the minds and beliefs of the turn-of-the-era Jews. They had certain expectations of their Messiah that (truth be told) were not fulfilled in the person of Jesus. (Not to say Jesus isn't the Messiah, but they were looking for something else.)

So, without further ado, here are the answers to the questions being sung: 

Mary did you know that your baby boy will one day walk on water?  No. The Messiah was not rumored to have any supernatural powers.
Mary did you know that your baby boy will save our sons and daughters? Yes. The Messiah, she believed, would be a military leader the likes of which hadn't been seen since King David. He was, she presumed, going to overthrow all rulers that had conquered the land of Judah and expand the borders to where they were during King David's time.
Did you know that your baby boy has come to make you new? No. Only God could do that. (Unless the "you" we're talking about is the nation of Israel, then Yes.)
This child that you've delivered, will soon deliver you. Deliver from oppression?  Yes. Deliver from sin? Nope.

Mary did you know that your baby boy will give sight to a blind man?
Perhaps. The Messiah was supposed to have the same power as the prophets, and many prophets performed miracles.
Mary did you know that your baby boy will calm a storm with his hand? Perhaps, but not likely.
Did you know that your baby boy has walked where angels trod? No. The Messiah, she believed, was not God.
And when you kiss your little baby, you have kissed the face of God. No. That would be blasphemous.

The blind will see, the deaf will hear and the dead will live again.

The lame will leap, the dumb will speak, the praises of the lamb.
Perhaps, but not likely, again. Except for the last one: Everyone, she knew, would praise her son.

Mary did you know that your baby boy is Lord of all creation?
No. Again, blasphemy!
Mary did you know that your baby boy will one day rule the nations?
Yes. The Messiah would definitely rule all the nations one day.
Did you know that your baby boy is heaven's perfect Lamb? No. The Messiah('s family) would rule forever. Lambs are slaughtered when they are still young.
This sleeping child you're holding is the great I am. No. Such thoughts would get her killed.

Hope you enjoyed this little history lesson.

Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Arson by Estevan Vega

Arson: Book One in The Arson Trilogy by Estevan Vega (published May, 2011, by StoneGate Ink) is the story of Arson Gable, the typical, normal teenage boy with a few notable exceptions: he can control fire with his mind and he has been told all of his life that he killed his own mother. Arson is "cared for" by a senile grandmother, who never misses an opportunity to cut him down, verbally and sometimes physically. Arson's only escape is the lake near his house, the cool water the only thing that seems to cool his fire-creating rage.

The story begins to take off when new neighbors--with problems of their own--move in to the house next door. The 17-year-old daughter, Emery, continually wears a blank mask to hide a hideously-scarred face, the result of a childhood accident. When Emery, trying to get away from bickering parents, walks to the lake only to see Arson lying face-down in the water in an attempt to escape his own demons, she jumps in in an effort to save his life. A fast friendship blossoms between the two self-proclaimed "freaks."

Despite Arson's numerous and vehement assertions to the contrary, Vega does an excellent job of painting our protagonist as the typical teenager struggling with normal teenage issues: the lack of love from a parental-figure, lust, physical desire, and the overwhelming desire to be normal. He struggles over loving someone who does not love--someone who may, in fact, hate--him back, and the deaths of those close to him.

Emery struggles with another aspect of teen life--parents who have emotionally abandoned, bur remain physically present. Her father, before the book's beginning, had, because of his alcoholism, lost his pastorate. Emery's mother, bitter over the alcoholism and the loss of "their" church finds solace in work. Both claim to be concerned about Emery and her emotional well being, both her mother and father desperately hate the mask she chooses to wear, but both also have a habit of abandoning Emery to her own devices while they fight themselves and each other. Vega does an excellent job of capturing the darker side of being a pastor's kid (or a pastor's wife)--the crushing, rarely-expressed, feeling that everyone and everything in the pastor's life is more important than his or her family.

Arson is a well-written, engaging story. The characters are extremely believable, and I even found myself wanting to encourage Arson to do the right (or noble or selfless) thing. It is a quick-enough read, and even without the cliff hanger-type ending leaves you wanting for a sequel. (The sequel, Ashes, was released in September, 2011.) Vega spins a good yarn and does it well. I highly recommend the book and cannot wait to read more from this engaging, youthful new author.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

The Hardest Part of Writing

As I stare at the blank screen, wondering what to write... it came to me. I'll write about getting started. The wondering. The "What the crap have I got myself into? I'm not a writer!" The "I thought this was supposed to be easy!" The hardest part of writing is actually the getting started.

I rarely work from outlines. I know that some authors live and breathe and never deviate from them--and I do not begrudge anyone their writing-style-of-choice, but for me, I find them stifling. Sure, sometimes I'll write down some good ideas I want to remember and a little bit of an order for them. But most of the time when I'm writing, the story just takes off and I'm left typing as fast as I can just to keep up, and an outline would just get in the way. And usually my thoughts are so disjointed that sticking to a "script" just simply doesn't work.

So, you have a story that needs to come out, but you're wondering how to get started? What do you do with that blank computer screen?
The best way to start writing is to take an idea and go with it. Usually, all you need is a subject (for the sake of argument, let's just say Sally) and a verb (perhaps ran). Then just make something happen. Sally ran as fast as she could. The cold, dark alley, she found out too late, was a dead end. With nowhere to hide.... 

And I could go on, but I have a blog post to finish.

If you simply cannot think of a subject/verb combo, perhaps try writing down what we call "nonsense writing."
Just start writing whatever comes to mind, it doesn't have to make sense or even be coherent. It's just something to make the blank page seem not-so-blank. I'm sitting in bed trying desperately to get warm (stupid winter). Bono is sitting on the blanket staring at the wall. What is he staring at? He must not like it because his kitty ears are angry. Okay, it's 8:30, time for little boys to be in bed. 

If the subject/verb combo doesn't work, and nonsense writing just has you writing I'm staring at the walls over and over, try describing your last strange dream, and let the words just flow. Dreams are wonderful resources for story ideas. My latest novel, Karis, started as a dream I had after watching Batman Forever back in 1995 (yeah, I've been working on it for that long). My current project--a fantasy, which is a new genre for me--is loosely based on a dream I had recently.

But, the most important part of writing--and the hardest--is just starting. Even if your start has nothing to do with where you want to go with your story, just write. Write what you know, write what you want to know, write out of thin air. It doesn't even have to be good (you can fix that with your editor.) Just get started.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Published Again -or- Who Wants A Free Book?

One of the hardest things for a writer (okay, so maybe it's just me) is to let yourself be finished with a story. Perhaps it's just me, and my perfectionism, but being okay with "it's done enough" is very difficult. After having spent months (or years) getting to know your characters--like your children--you have to send them out into the cruel world to fend for themselves. This is difficult. You wonder if they're ready to fend for themselves. Can they walk on their own yet? Have you given them the tools they need to survive? The only thing you can hope is that you have prepared them enough to stand up for the things they believe in and help others that need it.

Every parents has to allow their children to leave the nest and fly on their own, and every writer has to do the same with their stories. But, unlike parents, authors are also supposed to promote their books after the book is sent off in order for their "children" to fulfill their life's purpose. Whether the book is published traditionally, independently, or by the author him/herself the book needs to be promoted and marketed.

When my first book was published, I--like many authors--thought I could just sit back and let the royalties just roll on in without any work at all. This, however, didn't happen. All that time and effort of writing my first book netted less than $30 in royalties in the last eight years. My second book--which, because of the birth of my son a few months after its release I was not able to adequately market--did even less in sales. I could make excuses about not having time (which I didn't), not having the resources (which I didn't), and not having all the same tools we have now (which we didn't), but frankly the main reason I didn't market the book is that I didn't know how. So, I learned about marketing, created all kinds of social media accounts, author pages, and everything else I needed to help promote this book as much as I am able to on my limited budget.

Part of that marketing is, of course, making the book available to people who will pass the word along. So, in honor of the publishing of "Karis," the first in the "My Life as a Superhero" series, I am giving out 25 free e-copies. Please just comment with your name, email, and format (Kindle, Nook, etc.).

If you like the book, feel free to leave a review on Amazon, Goodreads, Barnes & Noble, really anywhere. It makes all of our blood, sweat, and tears worth it to hear that someone liked our story.

Monday, November 21, 2011

On Writing the Angsty Teenager Well

For writers, it's much more difficult to write (well, at least) something he or she knows very little to nothing about than it is to write something he or she knows very well. If, say, a writer has never owned a cat, the collection of original humorous stories he writes about the funny things cats do will probably fall flat with avid cat lovers. The only way to make it work would be go out and do the leg work to actually get real-life anecdotes from those crazy cat people.

Writing believable characters is essential to telling a good story. Even if your character is a two-headed pig-frog hybrid creature from the planet Ultron, it still needs to be believable in the context and environment it lives in. We've all had those moments watching a television show when we said to ourselves, "That newborn baby is NOT a newborn baby!" or "Who are they kidding!? Those are NOT teenagers!"

When you throw teenage characters into the mix things become even more complicated. Anyone who has spent any time with teens--either their own or someone else's--knows that attitudes, even personalities, seem to change on a daily basis. And that is exactly what is happening, too. The teen years, according to psychologists, is a time when humans subconsciously "try on" different personalities to see the types of reactions they'll receive. Of course, very few teens themselves know this is happening. All they know is that they are different people at home, school, with friends, and with other adults. This makes writing a truly believable teen difficult, but there are ways to help you get the best teen character.

Of course, if you are a teen (or just out of your teenage years), write what you know; write your teen characters as you think/thought and feel/felt. This is the easiest way to write believable teens.

If, however, you're like most of humanity, you are not a teenager. While that's a fairly high hurdle to overcome, there are still ways to get around your adult-type thinking. Simply going to where youth hang out and listening in on conversations will not get you the point of view you're seeking, especially if you're writing form a first person or omniscient point of view and want to include realistic inner dialogue. Even with their friends, few teens open up and share their innermost thoughts. Simply going to where there are a lot of teenagers and listening in will not give you the inner dialogue you want.

The best way to write a teenage character--even if it may take months to even years--is to get to know a teenager enough that he or she trusts you enough to let you in and really talk to you. Because of the teen's inner struggle, opening up and showing "the real me" is difficult for them. They will not easily trust someone if they suspect that trust will be violated. To show yourself worthy of their trust, you must get to know them. You need to be willing to listen to the inane prattle and the surfacey fluff and not pass judgement before they will open up and show you how they really think (within reason, of course--you shouldn't, by your lack of judgment, be seen as encouraging dangerous, destructive, or illegal behavior).

Volunteering in a youth program is one of the best ways you can accomplish this. If you are religious, ask your house of worship's youth director if they need help (as one myself, I can tell you with absolute certainty: they will always need someone to help, especially with middle schoolers). If you are non-religious, there are still plenty of places to go to begin relationships with youth. You could be a Big Brother or Big Sister. Police departments in cities usually have teen outreach programs. Volunteer at a school or the YMCA. If you already have a book published, ask school librarians if they would like you to come in and do a reading. Build relationships with the kids. Take them (with parental permission of course) out to a game, or for a coffee, or just out with you running errands. Any time spent with them one-on-one or one-on-two will be good for not only you, but for them as well.

Speaking from personal experience, once the relationship is built, you will be able to pick their brains, and they can even help you with your story. Young Adult Fiction authors have some of the best resources (and story editors) available in the angsty teenager. Few, however, take the time to mine this resource, and many times, characters simply come out sounding like adults.