Monica Yoknis is the author of Fear and Terror Stalk the Museum, the first novel in her Shamanic Mysteries Series. She also writes a detective serial for the e-zine Bunnyzine, as well as serving on the development team. Monica is a member of Northern Colorado Writers, and currently has two novels in the works. She writes, crochets, reads mystery novels and takes care of her rescue bunny.
I started my first novel in 8th grade. Back in 1994, the X-Files TV show was popular, and one of my personal favorites. That show got me interested in mysteries and the paranormal, and turned me into a reader. The inspiration for my novel came from a visit to the Field Museum of Natural History, in Chicago. I had just learned about the man eating lions of Tsavo, and made a point to see their exhibit at the museum. Standing in front of the diorama, my imagination took off, and an idea for an X-Files episode began taking form. I started writing in an old spiral notebook, as soon as we got home. Then high school interfered, X-Files “jumped the shark”, and the notebook got tucked away on a bookshelf somewhere.
Fast forward to 2015, and a move to a house on the plains. During the chaos of packing, the notebook surfaced. Just like with cleaning one's room, the brain looks desperately for a distraction from packing, so I stopped to read the two chapters I'd written twenty years before. Several of my friends had been encouraging me to do something for NaNoWriMo, and I decided that the idea of the story was something I could work with. I made sure to pack the notebook where I could find it again. That November, using a TV tray for a computer desk, I wrote Fear and Terror Stalk the Museum, the first book in my Shamanic Mysteries series. I got to 50,000 words about three days early.
After sending 100 queries, and getting 100 rejections, I decided to self publish. I know myself well enough to know that I'm not a salesperson, so I had no expectations of “hitting it big”. Even so, more have sold than I expected, and I have more than 50,000 words written of the next book in the series.
I have one other writing project, a small e-magazine, called Bunnyzine. The editor was looking for an on-going column, but didn't have the time to do it himself. Obviously, it had to be rabbit-related, and the idea of a serial of short stories about my “Intrepid Bunsplorer Peaches” had been knocking around in my head for a while. Then I watched the Castle episode, “The Blue Butterfly”. My exploring bunny morphed into a trench coat-wearing Pet PI, Ears O'Fluffin. His popularity has surprised me, and the idea for a novel-length story has received enough positive feedback that I'm preparing one for this year's NaNoWriMo.
Inspiration for the next books in the Shamanic Mysteries series is coming from my own personal experiences with the paranormal. Book Two, Evil Haunts the Canyon, was inspired by a string of ghost lights I saw along a canyon wall a few years ago. Book Three will be set in a mine, and based partly on some encounters I've had on mine tours. Ears O'Fluffin's cases are inspired by my experiences as a bunny parent. A few ideas have also come from others in the Bunnyzine Development Team, including the idea for the novel.
Motivation is difficult for me, I'll admit. I live with a chronic pain disorder called Fibromyalgia. Chronic Fatigue and debilitating migraines are weekly struggles for me, and make sitting in front of my computer, for any length of time, difficult. Worse than the pain, though, is the mental fog that is common to people with Fibromyalgia. I can have a great idea pop into my head, but by the time I've gotten sat down at the keyboard, the idea is gone. The joke, “Wat r werds”, is a true daily struggle for me. I hate to admit it, but the best motivator for me is a deadline. I do fairly well getting the next part of Ears O'Fluffin written the day it's due. Of course, that doesn't help with the novels. Attempts to set my own deadlines never seem to work, since I'm the only one who knows about them. Accountability to others is why NaNoWriMo works so well for me.
I confess that I really don't read authors, I read characters. As of this writing, I can't say that I've ever read everything any given author has written. Given that, I've never been too interested in meeting other authors. There is one exception, Craig Johnson. He was recommended to me by a literary agent, and very quickly became one of my favorite authors. There's only one of his books that I have not yet read, and that's only because the local library never seems to have it checked in. Mr Johnson was in Ft Collins on another book tour, last year, and I made a point to go hear him speak. He writes his books in first person, and reading them has been a huge help for me in writing Ears O'Fluffin.
One of the most important lessons I've learned, this year is that I am a plot planner. I have three months to get as much of my Ears O'Fluffin novel planned out as possible. Oh good, a deadline! I'd best get started on that....
Fear and Terror Stalk the Museum
Ghostly phenomena plague the lofty halls of the museum with the arrival of a mysterious ebony statue. A prominent pastor is found dismembered after a night alone in the museum. The local police are stumped as the bodies keep piling up.
Despite slaughtering 135 men, the spirits of two man-eating lions failed in their mission to stop the invasion of modern technology into the heart of the African continent. A hundred years later, a new sorcerer has claimed the power to command the spirits of the lions. He releases them into the museum that houses their mortal remains. Neither ghost hunters nor exorcists can muster the power to defeat the spectral lions. Finally, Artemis Lewis, a Native American shaman, takes a stand.
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Bunnyzine Archive (Ears O'Fluffin's first case begins in Volume 2, Issue 6)
Where to Buy Fear and Terror Stalk the Museum
I'm generally pulled in a million different directions and I wouldn't trade it for the world. Here's a glimpse of my life - hope you enjoy it! And if there's a big lapse between posts, well, that's the way life goes in Amy's world.