News, commentary, and fiction by Barb Hendee, co-author of the Noble Dead saga (; author of the Mist-Torn Witches series, the Vampire Memories series, and more.

The Artistic Personality: Is it really okay to treat other people like crap?

This post is a little different from typical “writing advice," but the question above has plagued me for years—possibly because I think how some artists answer it is complete hogwash.  Back in college, artistic people (mainly writers) were the crux of my daily world.  Some of them were awesome (I’m married to one of them), but I remember meeting more than my share of the stereotypes.

You know . . . the tall, good-looking, brooding poet/dude who didn’t shower often enough and who let his girlfriend support him and cook his meals, and he barely noticed her, and when I pointed this out, he answered, “I’m a poet.  I have an artist’s nature.”

“And that gives you the right to treat your girlfriend like crap?”

It was really none of my business, and I decided that at some point she’d probably realize he was never going to notice her efforts or give her any help, and she’d get herself out.

Big News

Okay, I've been sitting on some big news for a while, but I couldn't announce it until now. I just signed the contracts for a new series called THE MIST TORN WITCHES. This is a high/dark fantasy series, very similar in tone and style to the first three Noble Dead books (and it's set in Droevinka). It's about a pair of orphaned sisters (kind of gypsy-ish), one of whom can read people's futures, who become obligated to the local nobility and have to use their own abilities to solve supernatural murder mysteries.  The first book probably won't hit the shelves until spring of 2013.  But I'm really excited!

The Wednesday Writer's Corner: How Important is Research?

One of the most common questions that budding writers ask JC or me is, “Do you do a great deal of research for your books?”  The short answer is, “Yes and no.”  We’ve purchased and read a ridiculous amount of books in the last ten years . . . on vampires, medieval fortresses, Eastern European myths, etc, but for the most part this research has proven to be a “jumping off point” for the actual stories we end up writing.

“How does that work?” you ask. 

So, here goes . . .

1) Inspiration for Story Ideas

Research into myth and legend can be a wonderful way to generate story ideas.  For the purposes of this post, I’m going to avoid Internet research (which would be a topic for a different post) and just focus on the books we’ve used.  Two books we’ve leaned upon heavily are Matthew Bunson’s The Vampire Encyclopedia and Paul Barber’s Vampires, Burial, and Death.

Book Signing: Powell’s Authorfest

Barb and J.C. will attend “Authorfest” at the Beaverton Powell’s bookstore.  This is a fun event where many local SF/Fantasy authors will be in attendance and signing their books.  Since it is a bookstore (and one of our favorite local chains), of course books are on sale during the event. The store staff makes a great effort to be certain all current books by attending authors are available. Please join us if you can!

Date: Sunday 11/13/2011
Time: 4:30 pm to 6:00 pm
Powell’s Books at Cedar Hills Crossing
3415 SW Cedar Hills Blvd.
Beaverton, OR 97005

The Wednesday Writer's Corner: Chapter Length in a Novel

JC and I are often asked questions by hopeful, young writers, and I've kept a mental list of the most common ones.  Here is a surprising question I get asked . . . well, a lot.

"How long should each chapter in a book be?"

The frequency of this question has surprised me over the years because I think some writers really struggle with this--and they worry.  But honestly, there is no right or wrong answer here.  Some writers prefer very short chapters to try and keep the pace quick.  Some writers alternate the point of view between characters by giving only one character the entire "chapter" and then another character the next entire chapter and so on.  Others, like me and JC, use multiple scenes inside a chapter, and often, each chapter tells a small story of its own inside the larger plot, so the length of our chapters depends upon what needs to "happen."

In the current Noble Dead book we are drafting, the longest chapter so far is 39 pages, and the shortest chapter is 11 pages.  If we go longer than 50 pages, we normally take another look at the arc in the chapter and see if we might break it up.

But I think my best answer to this question would be, "It depends on the kind of book you're writing.  It depends on the structure you've chosen.  Follow your instincts, and really, don't worry about it."

The October Writing Cycle

Since our books have been "due" on the exact same months for years, we've unconsciously seemed to develop a writing rhythm that revolves around the seasons.  I write a Vampire Memories book in the spring, and then in early summer, we start outlining the next Noble Dead book together.  This may seem strange, but outlining a Noble Dead book is by far the most time consuming aspect.  It takes a number of months.  We brainstorm and work on the outline in the morning, passing it back and forth, and then we work in our veggie garden in the afternoon.  Here in Oregon, summers are surprisingly warm and dry.  People who visit are often quite surprised by how little it rains from June through September.  Then in October . . . the sky turns gray, and the rain becomes relentless.  That's also when we complete the Noble Dead outline and turn to serious drafting, holed up in our little house, watching the veggie garden beginning to fade, but I always feel both very driven and very content to write every day, bringing our outline to life.  We will continue this through January, when the book is due.  Then I kind of mentally collapse for a month, and then I gear up to write a Vampire Memories novel . . . and the whole process starts again.  It will rain here from now until May.  But I don't mind at all.

Book Sightings: VM4: In Memories We Fear

Book "placement" in the bookstores is often crucial to whether a book/series becomes a success or not.  JC and I used to live near Boulder, Colorado, and we ran up into Denver all the time, so we could always check in a variety of bookstores (B&N, Tattered Cover, etc) to see how our books were being displayed.  A book really has to be visible to reach an audience.  I'm honestly not sure how this going to work with the movement toward e-books.

However . . . now, we live just a tad off the beaten path in Oregon (nowhere near a bookstore), so we have to rely on other folks to let us know how our books are being displayed in the stores.  I've been hearing reports on VM4: In Memories We Fear, and it seems the best place to find it in a Barnes & Noble is to look in the New SF/Fantasy section, on the "new" mass market shelf.  It should be there!

A Long Day

Wow, between stressing over the release day for In Memories We Fear, drafting for five hours on a Noble Dead novel, and doing some last minute things to get this site ready for prime time viewing . . . this is how we feel.

Kindle Version–VM4: In Memories We Fear

I just went through the Kindle e-version for In Memories We Fear, and it looks good — very clean.  I always do this when a new book comes out. The e-version for S1B6: Child of a Dead God came out with no scene breaks — none.  Anyone who reads our books, and knows that we switch character point of view in each new scene, can imagine how difficult it would be a read a Noble Dead book with no scene breaks. Once we alerted her, our fabulous editor jumped on this and got it fixed. But I still like to check the e-versions when they come out and just make sure.

Release–VM4: In Memories We Fear

VM4_usa_smallJC created a spiffy new website for me for the publication of In Memories We Fear.  I’m excited about this novel.  Even though it is book four, I’ve had this story rolling around inside my head since I first pitched the series.

You can view excerpts from this novel on the Books page.

Happy reading!