It’s December and I am unsure where the year has gone.The last couple months have seemed to drag along, but it’s time for holiday cheer, egg nog, cookies, lights and all that jazz!
As the year winds down, I got the first round of Developmental Edits from my agent (Developmental edits are 30,000 foot big picture edits of the manuscript, plot, pacing, character arcs, etc.). I know a lot of folks don’t like the editing process, but I actually enjoy it. What do you like more, editing or writing? I’m curious, email me and let me know!
When people ask why do you need to work with critique partners, writing groups or developmental editors, I always say, “they are the eyes in the author’s blind spots.”
That’s right. No matter how much love I’ve put into crafting a twisty plot that will keep you turning the page, the tone, pacing, emotional growth of my characters always improve going through these important developmental edits.
Always remember not to take the comments personally. I know it is hard to send your baby out into the world and someone tells you your favorite scene drags on, before you go into crazy mode, remember these are just suggestions, one person’s thoughts, but this is someone whose judgment you respected enough to send you baby to in the first place.
So, when I get back comments, I read them, I mumble and curse to myself under my breath about how idiotic the negative comments are (the positive comments are always spot on) then I put the comments away (I may read the positive comments again, but then put it away) for a couple days or so, and busy myself with something else. After the excitement of finally moving forward with the manuscript fades a bit, I approach each comment in a serious and thoughtful way.
Even if you disagree with a comment or potential change, you should revisit that scene or the character’s emotional arc, tone, sensitivity, colorism, physical abuse, sex, abrasive language, etc.
If you are still hesitant to go in and take the scalpel or sledgehammer to your baby, copy the section(s) or chapter(s) in question into a new document (save it as MS_awesome_as_is), turn on track changes (they should already be on) and then experiment with changing the scene or section within your manuscript, and see what you think (ask yourself honestly, do things read better? The same? Or the original was the bee’s knees!)
I’ll be the first to admit that cutting and rewriting big chunks of your perfect baby is hard. My WYS_awesome_as_is file for Will You Still Love Me… was about 20,000 words over a couple rounds of Developmental edits (I cut an entire chapter), but in the end the pacing of several chapters improved, characters and plot lines I introduced but never fully fleshed out were removed and all this created space to more fully explore the world and growth of the main characters of the novel, Alex, Marci and Leslie.
And, bonus that chapter and other stuff you cut may be useful as a scene in the sequel (Did I mention I finished the first draft of Will You Still Love Me If I Become Someone Else part 2!)
Okay, I’m going to get off my, “editing is great,” soapbox, but I’ll share more of my process as I go along, like how I edit scenes in my stories using Comic book Panel formatting. But, more on that later.
Speaking of Comics, I just found out earlier this week that Rabbit Hole of Research (atomicnumber14 (Georgia) and I) will have a table at the NWI-Comic Con in February 12th 2022!!!
Mark your calendar: more details coming soon!
If you missed it:
My paranormal romance werewolf shifter novella, ‘Eve’was released October 31st in the Moonlight Anthology! You can Order it Now: Kindle Unlimited, ebook and paperback!
Also, check out my debut Sci-Fi Psychological Thriller Novel, ‘Will You Still Love Me If I Become Someone Else?’ Order online Now: e-book and paperback!
Buy a book from my web-store (paperback or hardback)anytime before December 24th 2021, and get a free atomicnumber14.com original relief print that has been featured on Rabbit Hole of Research!!!
I often get asked how does a research scientist balance using Handwavium to write Speculative Science fiction or Paranormal stories and staying Actual Factual?
So, little secret, I don’t try to keep any balance. I do a bit of research (sometimes I get lost in the Rabbit Hole of Research) about things that I may use in a story trying to learn more about the history/origin of paranormal legends and think about how these phenomena can be explained using science fact, or research how a technology may work and the limits that exist today and push past these limits in a “speculative” way to create interesting plot twists in a story.
Yet, after I do research, I often put it away, and focus on writing the first draft (just get those words down), and not let the Actual Factual box my story in.
It is in latter drafts where I square the Actual Factual using as little of Handwavium as possible to plug those pesky plot holes (which I like to explore in the Rabbit Hole of Research).
Speaking of werewolves (I did an episode on the science of werewolves; check it out here) and balanced the Paranormal with Actual Factual in writing my paranormal romance shifter novella, ‘Eve’:
My paranormal romance werewolf shifter novella, ‘Eve’was released October 31st in the Moonlight Anthology! You can Order it Now: ebook and paperback!
Also, check out my debut Sci-Fi Psychological Thriller Novel, ‘Will You Still Love Me If I Become Someone Else?’ Order Now, e-book and paperback!
Hey y’all, I hope this email finds you safe and well. No matter how you found my newsletter, thank you for joining.
I know what you are thinking, “Jotham, what is this Rabbit Hole of Research?” Well, my newsletter comes out twice a month (this is the goal), one edition will feature an author interview, book promos/samplers and giveaways; The second edition will explore the quirky science in fiction. Also, I say Handwavium a lot. Handwavium is a fictional material used to smooth plot holes.
So, a couple quick updates and no Handwavium.
A lot has happened since the last Rabbit Hole of Research newsletter—I am now represented by the literary agent Kat Kerr at the Donald Maass Literary Agency!
I am excited to work with Kat!
Other thing that has gained some attention in the last couple week is my mustache! I’ve been trying different waxes to tame the might-stache—you can follow the adventures of the stache and craft beers I’m drinking on Instagram. Been trying some different waxes to tame, shape, the stache.
The other thing you may have noticed if you follow me on SocialMedia AtomicNumber14 (Georgia) and I have officially combined our talents for your enjoyment on Rabbit Hole of Research newesletters. We will be putting together some Zines in the near future combining my words and Georgia’s prints.Georgia’s prints are on display at Studio 659 art gallery in Whiting, IN.
Last weekend, Georgia and I along with two friends finally got to see RENT. During the lockdown there was a NPR story about the 25th anniversary tour and the life and legacy of Jonathan Larson (Check it out here).
I was driving down the relatively empty streets of Chicago and my eyes teared up listening to this—Once parked I immediately texted my good fried who is a huge RENT fan and asked if she wanted to go (she has seen RENT with her wife 10+ times). She said yes! LOL
This was the first live performance we all had been to since early 2020. Masked, vaccinated and it was nice to be out and see this fabulous performance. Also, I discovered that I really enjoy musicals—
And finally, my paranormal romance shifter novella, ‘Eve’ was delivered to the publisher and will be released October 31st in the Moonlight Anthology! You can Preorder it now!
Also, the publisher just let us know that a limited number of paperback copies will be available—stay tuned for more on that.
Jennifer Soucy is a spirited New England girl who loves to explore both the world around her and the vivid realms within her imagination. Born and raised in Connecticut, she currently lives in Georgia after a stint in Las Vegas. She’s an editing assistant, 25-year veteran of the service industry, and a proud nerd whose various hobbies involve some combination of horror and fantasy.
DEMON IN ME, her debut novel, is an adult contemporary horror/dark fantasy. THE NIGHT SHE FELL, a contemporary adult dark fantasy/paranormal romance novel, also has a sequel due in Fall 2021. CLEMENTINE’S AWAKENING, a southern gothic/horror, was released by Silver Shamrock Publishing. THE MOTHER WE SHARE, a contemporary YA dark fantasy/horror, was recently released by RhetAskew Publishing.
Her best ideas are often inspired by deliberately inducing nightmares, translating those into tales which may occasionally encourage readers to sleep with a light on.
Follow Georgia @atomicnumber14
Jennifer, How do you come up with ideas for a project?
My ideas come from lots of places—previous experience, dreams or nightmares—though the initial seed usually sprouts from a “What-if” scenario. For instance, the first two books I wrote, The Mother We Share and Clementine’s Awakening, were both loosely inspired on previous life experiences. In TMWS, I include the origin in the Acknowledgments. My younger sister created a scary bedtime story (The Green-Eyed Girl) for her kids, which inspired me years later to dig deeper: What if the Green-Eyed Girl was real, and why might she really be stalking her victim/sister? In CA, I’d worked for nearly twenty-five years in restaurants, one time in a location we believed was haunted, but I felt the spirit was somewhat benevolent—at least toward some of us. So I thought to myself: What if a ghost did haunt a restaurant, but she became friends with one of the servers?
I guess in a way I’m lucky to have seen and done a lot of strange things. Combine that with a highly active imagination, and I’m fortunate enough to have more than enough ideas to play with.
After you have a new idea, how much research do you do?
It really depends on the topic. I try not to pick anything that goes way beyond my basic scope of knowledge. Not that a writer shouldn’t do that, but for myself I don’t like to spend a ton of time on research unless it’s absolutely necessary. I actually enjoy learning, so once I get sucked into a research wormhole I can be gone for a while.
To make it easier on myself, I write main characters who I find relatable. Their interests, occupations, strengths and weaknesses are all things I can identify with on some level. Even the story settings are usually places I’ve visited or lived in, that way I have some familiarity while writing the bones of the story.
Research is inescapable, even with those circumstances. For example, the Irish folklore in TMWS was complex enough I definitely researched the topic to brush up my existing knowledge. Certain locations require an element of research, too, especially if you’re a fan of mentioning key landmarks, streets, or even discussing weather on specific times of the year.
But again, I try to keep the research to something of a minimum to avoid distracting myself from actually writing. Worldbuilding and research are important and add value for the reader, but as writers we can’t ever lose sight of our end goal—finishing the damn story!
Do you research things throughout your creative process or just at the beginning?
I might do a little research during the beginning, often for information or setting a mood in my own mind, but often I find myself taking breaks at times during the writing to doublecheck things. In CA, for instance, an unexpected character appeared who ended up adding a lot to the narrative. However, she had a certain gift I’d only heard tell of but never really researched so I had to stop for a couple of days and do some learning. I think it was worth it in the end, even if I didn’t use everything I studied, and I hope the readers enjoyed that added layer.
What’s the strangest thing you’ve researched for a project (go check that Google search history)?
Oh god, if people could see my Google search history… I already told my boyfriend get ready to bail me out ‘cause anyone who finds it will think I’m a maniac!
I don’t know if this is necessarily the strangest thing I’ve researched for a project, but I had a question on my current WIP: Do cockroaches drink blood? Turns out, yes, they do—and they have a grand old time hanging around corpses, filling their nasty bellies (carapaces? Whatever lol). Keep that in mind if you see them poking around your house, crawling over your belongings, and you’re not sure if exterminating them is worth the cost. Do it!
When you write, do you try to stay close to the Actual Factual or are you fast and loose with Handwavium (a term used when a writer waves their hand at reality for sake of the plot)?
I’m a pretty imaginative person with a great respect for artistic liberty. My reading preference is also heavily rooted in horror and fantasy, so I’m cool with anything supernatural/paranormal. That said, there’s definitely a time where facts matter (although, there’s also room for a bit of handwaving once you’ve laid the story’s foundation).
Suspension of disbelief is hugely important in fiction, whether it’s a book, movie, or tv show. That doesn’t mean everything has to be rooted in solid fact, but plot features/situations have to be believable. For me, this goes back to creating effective characters and setting the scene. If the artist has created a believable, relatable character and world, then there’s a lot we, the audience, will forgive or overlook as the story expands.
But I would also add that PoV and genre/sub-genre matter in this discussion. If we’re in the PoV of a believably confused or unreliable character, we can swallow their mistakes or misperceptions with greater ease if the creator is doing their job. If you’re writing a story with sci-fi elements, for example, you will want some hardcore science facts mixed in with your fantasy elements. Sci-fi readers have certain expectations that must be met, otherwise they’ll never find themselves sinking into the story and suspending disbelief when the really wild things start happening.
Long story short, I guess it depends mostly on what you’re writing. Be flexible and adaptable, and definitely plan on including some blend of facts with your fiction to make it more robust.
Have you ever stopped reading a story to go look up how factual something was?
Hah, yes! I should say, I don’t necessarily recall the last time I did that for a book, but I’m terrible at this when it comes to movies and tv shows. I’m a huge history buff, so when I watch stories inspired by history I find myself Googling when the writers try to pull a fast one.
I drive my boyfriend crazy cause I’ll pause and Google, then cry, “I knew it! All lies!”
He always says, “Remember this is a movie, relax. It doesn’t have to be perfect.”
I guess that relates to what I said earlier, though, about blending facts and fiction. If you tell the audience right from the beginning this is based on or inspired by real events, then you’d better be ready to include some solid facts. Of course, in the books/shows I truly enjoy and get lost in, it only occurs to me after that I might want to see if any of it was possible or true—never while I’m under its spell, indicating the creator did their job by reeling me in. In short, I believe once we start detecting too much handwaving and artificial/unbelievable drama, we can’t just relax and enjoy the story, so creators beware!
Do you create with music, other background noise or complete silence?
I love music almost as much as books, so yes, I write to music. Part of my worldbuilding process for every WIP is building a playlist that relates to themes, characters, location, or other factors. I don’t play it very loud, as that might get distracting, but it keeps my conscious mind occupied so my subconscious can peek out and help during the writing process.
As an example, here’s the link for my Spotify playlists:
If you’ve read any of my books and want to see what helped inspire them, the music is like a behind-the-scenes peek!
Do you have any pet helper?
I wouldn’t call her a helper, but I do have a pet. Buffy’s our newest family member, a 7-month-old kitten. She’s kind of an attention hog at this stage of her life, so I find myself locking her out of the room when I write otherwise she races around and often stops to bite my toes or claw my legs. Maybe one day she’ll be more of a help, haha.
Do you create better at 5am or 5pm?
Definitely 5am. I enjoy my morning writing sessions as I’m a weird combination of awake and asleep still, waiting for the coffee to kick in. The sleepiness is nice at times because it keeps my subconscious in a sort of dream state, but one that I can access like a lucid dream. It really helps me get the words on the paper, allowing me to dance between real life and the world I’m creating on my computer.
I can also write late at night, but that mid-afternoon/evening is hard because I usually have to do other more mundane tasks which take most of my attention. I save those hours for working on other people’s projects or for doing basic stuff like cleaning and cooking.
Which team apocalypse are you on: zombie, asteroid, or alien invasion?
Great question! I think I’m prepared for each of them.
I only got into zombies after meeting my boyfriend twenty years ago, as he’s a huge Romero zombie fan, but I feel we’ve done well planning our response to a zombie attack. I’d say check in with us during the zombie apocalypse, but we plan to be long gone to avoid teaming up with bumbling people who will probably get us killed (like in all the movies/shows lol!).
As for aliens, I’ve always loved the notion of them since watching E.T. as a wide-eyed kid in the theater. My belief solidified during my teen years after reading Communion by Whitley Strieber, one of the scariest books I’ve ever read. I’m so psyched with all these UFO videos popping up, and my fingers are crossed that we could learn more soon. Whether they end up being benevolent or monstrous, I just want to see them before I die (please, don’t kill me, aliens!).
Asteroid attack…yeah, not sure one can prepare for that. Although one of my favorite movies ever is sort of related to this idea. Melancholia isn’t about an asteroid but a rogue planet on an unavoidable collision course with Earth, and it’s seriously one of the most beautiful movies I’ve ever seen. The relationship between the sisters and how each slides along a spectrum of stability and mental illness the closer their world inches toward destruction touched my very soul. I highly recommend it for a lesson in quality storytelling and complex characters that really test the boundaries of our empathy.
You mentioned you are a 25-year veteran in the service industry, how has that helped you in your writing career?
It’s definitely shown me a lot about people and society, that’s for sure. When you hear the cliche “Truth is stranger than fiction,” trust that it’s a cliche for a darn good reason. People will never cease to amaze you—sadly, it’s often in the most shocking, deplorable ways possible. Of course, there are also amazing people out there with genuine compassion for others who are a treasure to either work with or wait upon. Working in a restaurant, you’ll encounter them all and everyone in between. It’s a wild environment, and you can never say you’ve seen it all. Once you do, a situation will arise and reset the whole game.
I feel surviving that many years of chaos has not only fed my imagination but also made me a better and stronger person. I’ve seen the best and worst of humanity, so it really helps when creating characters and putting them in unusual situations. Even after all that, I still love the industry. With the bad, there’s still so much good. The friends you make are like war buddies. You’ve survived the impossible together and forge bonds for life. You learn patience and endurance, which a writer definitely needs. Even though those years kept me from writing because I stayed so busy, I wouldn’t trade the experience.
You’ve lived in Connecticut, Las Vegas, and now Georgia. How have the places you lived influence your writing?
I love traveling, seeing new places and meeting new people. I also love exploring and learning about other cultures. Even in our one country, each region is so unique because of certain traditions and beliefs. Also each region has some pretty awesome legends and lore, which again have fed my creativity and imagination.
New England, the deep South, and the American West are all very different but I’ve loved them all even though each also has their downside. I think the times in my life I lived there also played a role. I spent my formative years in CT, a place rich in history (often very spooky history), so that left a mark. GA has been home for most of my adult life, with a lot of conflicts and obstacles but also triumphs. Las Vegas was a refuge at a time when I needed one, so I find that sneaking into stories, too, such as Demon in Me where the main character also likens the city as a haven where she could find herself again.
If you got to use some “Handwavium” and send younger Jennifer one note about writing, editing, or marketing, which would you chose and what would you say?
I would definitely tell younger Jennifer to study marketing. What a pain it is! The writing and editing always came somewhat easily as I did well throughout school in related subjects. Plus I credit a lifetime of reading with helping those tasks seem more natural and easier to accomplish. But marketing? I’m from Gen X, so I’m not a complete idiot with the internet and technology, but it still can be challenging. I know there’s more I can do, more sites to use as a platform, and I really need to work on building my newsletters, but it all feels really overwhelming. I wish I’d spent some time working on marketing in the modern age because learning it all now is definitely time-consuming.
You had several books released in the last few months, can you give us the run down and can you share what we can expect next?
So far this year, I’ve released two books: Clementine’s Awakening and The Mother We Share, the first two books I wrote in 2018. Yes, sometimes publishing works out that way where your books don’t always get released in the order they were written. Still, these stories hold very special places in my heart, and I’m so delighted to see them out in the world.
This fall, I plan on releasing the sequel to The Night She Fell which is called She Who Destroys. As for what comes after, there’s definitely plenty waiting in the wings but nothing I can confirm yet. I do know one thing, I haven’t stopped writing since 2018 so I promise there’s plenty of stories left to tell!
Jennifer, thank you for your time. Is there anything else you’d like folks to know about you, your work, or your research process?
I just want to add that this past year or so has been difficult for all of us, some more than others. Be patient and kind. Treat people as you wish to be treated. Sure, not everyone will appreciate that and you may have to leave them behind, but plenty of people will be grateful for your sincere efforts. We’re all in this together, and it’s time to start moving forward again. Live, love, and always chase your dreams. Life’s short, so don’t waste a minute of potential joy.
Follow Jennifer on Social Media.
Tree farts, pond scum and cooperative ferns.
After I write my Rabbit Hole of Research episodes I keep my eye on the science, and will update if I see some interesting new research popping up. Last year I had an episode on Killer Plants (read it here), and here are some new botanical findings:
1) So, one article explores the idea that Ferns create eusocial colonies (what is an eusocial colonies you ask?) According to Britannica: An eusocial species, is any colonial animal species that lives in multigenerational family groups in which the vast majority of individuals cooperate to aid relatively few (or even a single) reproductive group members—simply put: think insects like ants or mole rats living in a colony. I can hear Spock’s voice in my head, “Logic clearly dictates that the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few” —and now we can add ferns to the list of eusocial species—read more here.
2) So, it has been long known that Cyanobacteria over growing in ponds, “blooms,” can produce toxins, but a new report shows evidence for airborne toxins.
3) And one last botanical laugh—Tree Farts! So, it seems “ghost forests”—“Ghosts forests” are drowned forests/marshlands with the remains of dead and decaying trees under water (read more here). These marshlands have been found to generate one-fifth of greenhouse gases, but when compared to other sources of greenhouse gases, this is a minor contribution.
I hear you out their asking, “Jotham, If the trees are dead then what is causing these farts. Microbes are what causes farts! And Just like you reading this newsletter, the microbes in your own intestines, digesting your food causes your farts. (I apologize to all the ferns for assuming a human-centric viewpoint that only humans can read).
Hopefully, this holds you over until the next edition of Rabbit Hole of Research—What, you checked the calendar and the next edition is the one year edition! That’s right we made it one year! So, to celebrate I’m going to revisit that first edition and return with more Sexy Space! To get ready for more Handwavium and Sex in Space you can reread that episode here.