Monday, November 28, 2011

Guest Post by Jerry Hanel

Getting bored while you wait for me to hurry up and post another review?  I've got some Jerry Hanel to tide you over.  Jerry's the author of Death Has a Name and Thaloc Has a Body, two titles that may sound vaguely familiar to readers of this blog.  He brings a welcome breath of originality to the urban fantasy genre, and today he's here to tell you a bit about the stories behind the stories.  Take it away, Jerry:
Adventures NOT in writing 
(or 'How my hobbies influence my stories')
In order to write compelling stories, they have to have some basis in the real world. Even paranormal stories have to be grounded, at some level, to a world that the reader can relate to. Items in that plane of existence have to translate into something the reader can recall in their mind so that the item or situation you describe can have the illusion of reality.
While writing is a great outlet for expressing our creativity, we need "inlets" to be able to translate those creative moments into expressions that other humans can interpret and understand.
This is why it is imperative that we, as authors, do more than just write. We need to get out of our shells and do something crazy every now and then. Go hang-gliding so that you can recall the feeling of freefall. Or travel the world so that you can describe the emotion of being completely awestruck by a something you've never seen before. 
For me, I have three main "inlets" for creativity. I love to play role-playing games, I am in love with an eighty-six year-old woman, and I have a day job that keeps me very busy.
For the most part, the day job is like anyone else's. I sit at a desk, filing papers, and working on projects. I attend meetings and give presentations. These may not seem like the pinnacle of writing fodder, but they are immeasurably helpful. I can recall getting up to give a presentation to the CEO of a Fortune-500 company -- the fear, sweaty palms and verbal constipation. I'm a competent, well-educated man. I'm confident and usually very well-spoken. But in that moment, nerves had me so bound up that I couldn't form a valid sentence to save my life. It took me five minutes to just get started, and when I was finished, I prayed he wouldn't fire me for incompetence. Side note: I'm still employed there. Those kinds of experiences are the foundations that I use to build every-day scenarios into my stories.
The eighty-six year old woman is a resident of one of the elderly centers where I volunteer to help distribute food. Her name is Miss Zenobia, and she is the most selfless, loving caring woman I've ever met. Week after week, I go there, and each time I visit Miss Z does something else that just blows me away. I'm happily married to a wonderful wife, but Miss Z has a special place in my heart for being caring and compassionate. I love her like my grandmother even though we aren't related except through those brief ten-minute encounters.
Sure, I can write a sappy love scene about a man and woman, keeping my relationship with my wife in mind. But it is through uncommon relationships like serving Miss Z a meal, then watching her give that meal to someone else because she's "just not that hungry today and Terrence could sure use a good bite to eat, bless his soul" that really help me to know what true love and compassion are all about. They help me define my characters in full, 3-D, living color.
And when I get stressed out from writing, my day job is unfulfilling, my wife is on my nerves and the senior centers are closed up for the night, what can I do? I kill something. Violently. With a big sword, or a flaming ball of fire. Am I a murderer or arsonist? No, I am Bartholomew Bladeslinger, Tiefling Paladin.
Most people use role-playing games as an expression of creativity and a means to just be goofy teenagers, even for a few minutes a week. I'm nearly forty years old, and didn't really get into role-playing games until a few years ago, but through these sessions, I've been paired up with people I wouldn't normally hang out with otherwise.  I embrace my inner geek and roll dice, count points and march across some campaign or other to attack the creatures of someone else's imagination. 
These games not only help me blow off steam, they teach me so much in the process. I've encountered situations that -- while I would have handled them differently in my own mind -- I've had to resolve as a team from several other points of view. It has helped me to not only have a social release, but to better understand social dynamics. I've learned how to describe my paranormal craziness in ways that relate to the common world, and I've had a great time in the process.
All-in-all, whether you are a reader or a writer, there's one thing I have to say: Books are awesome, and we need to never give up the fight for reading. Novels and stories will never be replaced by Hollywood special effects, no matter how much they spend, because books are read with the heart, not the eyes and ears.
But when even your latest book comes to an end, there's only one thing that matters: Who have you connected with in your life? Not only will that help you be a better writer, it will help you be a better all-around person.

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