Tag Archives: Mystic Ink

Things Could Always be Worse!

Welcome to another Friday! Casey here.

I’m happy to report that Mystic Hero finally crossed the 60,000 word mark. That means IMG_2249the end of the first draft is in sight! Unlike the previous books in the series, Devlin’s story is a bit different.

He’s got issues. Big ones. And just like in real life – everything that can go wrong, does. We Scribes have mentioned a few times the importance of being mean. And I totally agree with that. The most satisfying tales always involve some emotional pain and the eventual triumph over that pain.

Normal people generally steer clear of conflict. And most people don’t enjoy watching others suffer. At least not in real life (and I know the glut of reality shows probably says otherwise), but I think the big exception is in entertainment. Movies, TV, books – they would all be booooring if there wasn’t some kind of challenge to conquer.

And really, in fiction, we have to be extra tough on our characters. One of the things I realized so far about Devlin’s journey is that I wasn’t being hard enough on him emotionally.

Sure, it was easy to throw bad guys his way. Since I write paranormal, they are often extra weird or super creepy. But I also realized that I was shying away from his substantial internal demons. And that is short-changing the reader. I know when I pick up a romance I want to go on an emotional ride with the hero and heroine.

How does one overcome this problem?

1. Don’t let your characters have what they want. At least not until the very end. Dangle the prize in front of them and take it away a few times. Again, think emotional stakes. What will they lose if they don’t change?

2. Make them earn the payoff in the end. This means, the character has to suffer. They have to doubt themselves, question their choices and reach a low point (or two or three) before they can transform.

3. Bring them to their darkest place and throw in their worst fear in for good measure. And I don’t mean lock them in a dark room. Not unless your hero or heroine has a phobia of the dark and the only way to save the day is to overcome that fear.

4. If you get stuck – ask yourself again – how can I make things worse for this character? Never better. At least not until the very end

One caution  – There’s a fine line between being too sappy or preachy (no one wants to read an ABC After School Special – at least I know I don’t!) and creating an emotionally satisfying and believable experience.

What are your tips for character “bashing”? And what books do a great job of torturing the poor hero and heroine?

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Getting to Know You in the Most Shallow Way Possible By Casey Wyatt

Welcome to another Friday! Casey here.

Last week, I shared the first thing I do when I start a new book – create the initial premise.That is only the tip of the iceberg. There is so much more!

All the world's a stageAs I’ve mentioned a few times in the past, I’m a plotter and, in most cases, I spend more time mapping the story then writing it. I do this for numerous reasons (which is a whole other blog post!). One reason is so I have a document that outlines all the basic facts. I call it my pre-work document.

After I jot down the initial premise, the next step is to identify the major characters. Notice I said, identify, not psycho-analyze, speed date, or get too far into their heads or physical appearances. At this stage, I want only the most basic information that is integral to the story.

That’s it. Later in the process, I’ll delve deeper and add more detail, but not right now. For the moment, I just want to know the very basics. Sometimes, I don’t even have  names for all the characters.

This is from The Undead Space Initiative:

Major Characters:

-          Cherry – Vampire, stripper, protagonist

-          Ian McDevitt, love interest

-          Captain Trent O’Connor – another potential love interest

-          Jay (Jayakrishna) – best friend and Thrall (human servant).

-          Antagonist –  Thalia – new Queen of the vampires

The next step is to create a basic sketch of the main characters. In this case, Cherry was the heroine of the story so I focused on her. I only included the most important details of the character for where she is at the time the story starts. Think of it as the launching point for Cherry.

Basic Character Sketch: Cherry is a vampire and a highly valued stripper at Fang Bang.  Her Sire, Jonathan Gilbert, also prizes her for her pure bloodline (Blue Blood). Cherry would have continued to be an entertainer if she hadn’t been considered a conspirator in the murder of the vampire Queen. Her only choice now: run or die (again).

Try to keep the character sketch simple and uncluttered. The details will come later. At the time, this is how I pictured Cherry’s situation in my head.

And that’s all I use at this point in the process. I’ve found going through this exercise in an exact order, keeps me organized and focused. Then I don’t get lost in the weeds early in the plotting process. Plus, it gives me a tangible series of steps to complete while mentally preparing me for the moment I start actually writing the story.

Again, this is only the initial stab at character development and is intended to be a brief first impression only. Once you have characters identified and an idea of the what the story is about, the next step is to map the plot (also at a high level).

I imagine, right about now, that if you’re a pantser, you’re shrieking in horror. Believe it or not, once I finish the “process” I basically let the characters and situations determine the flow of the story. So there’s plenty of room for fun and discovery!

One final note – this should not take hours or days. If it is, you’re thinking too deeply. Remember: shallow, superficial. The rest of the details will come out, I promise.

Questions?  Concerns? Alternate methods? Feel free to comment.

Your Journey Starts Here by Casey Wyatt

Happy Friday everyone. Casey here.

Now that I’ve done the final edits on Mystic Storm, I’m focusing on my next few books. And because I plot my novels before I write a single word, I always create a document with all the basics like premise, characters, setting, etc. The first thing I always ask myself – New day!what is the initial premise?

It’s really a very simple question - what is this story about? It’s not meant to be used by anyone other than me. And it’s not supposed to be a tagline, elevator pitch or back cover copy. No. Nothing fancy or complicated at this stage.

Instead, the initial premise is a starting point to get the creative ball rolling. Generally, I aim for one or two sentences. The simpler, the better.

Here’s why. At this point in the process, I don’t want to be encumbered by a constricting idea. If the premise is too well-formed, it might make it harder for me later if I want to deviate from the chosen path. And, why give The Doubt Monster more fodder to work with at this stage in the game?

We all have to start someplace, for me, this is a great way to launch into my next book. Because I have three new book ideas in my brain, I have three different documents mapping them out. Since they aren’t written yet, sorry, you can’t see them. I’m kind of superstitious about my stories. No one but me gets to know the details until I’ve written them.

Now, I know I said the premise is for your eyes only, but, in this case I’ll make an exception for my fellow Scribblers. Here’s what I came up with for my published novels (and it’s funny to re-read them!).

Mystic Ink: A tattoo shop owner keeps finding dead bodies in the alley next to her shop.

The Undead Space Initiative: Vampire stripper Cherry Cordial spectacularly messes up her life with a single act of kindness that earns her the wrath of the entire vampire community.

Mystic Storm:The Fates have cursed Zephyr, God of the West Wind, for interfering in a Hero’s Journey. He tries to deal with the consequences while helping a Muse find her missing brother.

In the case of The Undead Space Initiative, I was able to use the premise to form the back cover copy. Just a lucky fluke, but again, in the early stages of writing, I would recommend not worrying about the tagline or back cover. But, hey, if you do have a flash of inspiration, by all means, write it down!

Now, my challenge for you. Can you summarize your story in one or two sentences? Remember, vague is good.

What’s Luck Got to Do With it?

Happy Friday everyone! Casey here.

I recently had a thought-provoking conversation with my friend Susannah Hardy. We were discussing writing careers and the role of luck and it got me thinking about a blog IMG_0994post I wrote as part of my promotional tour for Mystic Ink.

So, how important to a writing career is luck  vs. hard work?  I’ll share my view in a moment.

See you at the end of the post.

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Lightning Never Strikes Twice . . .  or Does It? By Casey Wyatt

While perusing the news headlines looking for inspiration, I ran across the story of a Virginia woman who won the lottery twice. On the same day. Each ticket was worth $1 million dollars.

Wow, I thought, she is one lucky lady. How often does that ever happen? Who is ever fortunate enough to receive such a windfall in one fell swoop?

Then I realized I was that lucky too.

Sure, I’ve never won large sums of money, but I did manage to go from unpublished author to published author in the same year. Not once, but twice.

Unlike the lucky lottery lady, I won’t be rolling in dough anytime soon, but I did accomplish an important life goal. Like most writers, I started off with a dream of publication and no clue how to achieve it. After many years of dabbling and spinning my wheels, I took charge and learned how to finish a book.

Once I completed my first manuscript, I faced the daunting trio of critiques, contests, and submission, followed by praise, sometimes not so glowing feedback, and dreaded rejections. I took classes, participated in NaNoWrimo, joined RWA, started a blog, joined various social media, and pitched to editors in person.

Wash, rinse, repeat.

As I pondered my writing journey, I started thinking, because that’s what writers do – we’re professional thinkers – how much success is luck? And how much is hard work?

On the hard work front – I had to write the books, learn craft, create the queries, learn more craft, write synopses and actually submit the books.  I also had to research the right publishers and determine who would be interested in said books.

On luck’s side – the editor had to be someone who loved my story, had capacity for it on their schedule, and wanted to buy it.

It may seem like hard work outweighs luck, but I think they are complimentary rather than at odds. You need both on your side.

Of course publication is only one goal on my roadmap of life. I’ll never, ever finish learning. I will receive glowing reviews and some not so great ones. I will still get rejected. And I continue to get up each day, put my pants on one leg at time, work my NDJ (necessary day job), and take care of my family.

Who needs the lottery? All in all, my life is pretty sweet as it is.

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Hi. Me again.

Since I wrote this post, I’ve sold another manuscript (Mystic Storm) and I’ve also had plenty more agent and editor rejections :(.

Back to the original question I posed at the beginning of this post – how important is luck in a writing career vs. hard work?

My two cents: While luck can be an important factor in success (because timing is everything), if you don’t put in the hard work (finish the book, then submit it) then you can’t take advantage of Lady Luck when she comes calling.

Now it’s your turn – What role has hard work and/or luck played in your life?

Imposter Syndrome

Happy Friday everyone. Casey here. If you have a moment, please stop by my blog. I’m hosting another Goodreads giveaway to celebrate the paperback release of The Undead Space Initiative.

Lighthouse, Stonington CT In case you hadn’t yet heard the news, Mystic Storm will be published in 2013. And while this is my third published novel, I still feel like a giant imposter.

Like someone is going to single me out and yell – “Fake! Fraud! She’s not a real writer!”

I know that sounds totally ridiculous but I know I’m not the only one who sometimes feels this way. I have heard an established NY Times bestselling author admit to having the same feeling – that no matter how many novels you write and sell that this one might be your last.

That you will never, ever write anything “good” again. Your career will be over!! You’ll be a “has been”, the equivalent of a dried up old spinster.

Eek! What’s a writer to do? Well, for starters, it’s time for a reality check.

By the power invested in me I say to you –  You’re a writer. A real, honest to goodness writer. Doesn’t matter if you’re unpublished, published big, published small, self-published, or any variation in between. If you’re dedicated to the craft of storytelling and you are actively putting words on a page, you’re a writer.

Feel better?

If not, and you’re still fretting,consider this:

1. Ignorance is bliss. Remember back in the early days of writing before you knew any of the “rules”? When it was a thrill just to type those words on the page and “publication” was some far off dream on a distant shore? If you find yourself traveling down the road of uncertainty, hark back to that earlier time. Too many “rules” equals zero fun. Ditch’em. Be that dreamer again. The completion of one book doesn’t mean you’re doomed to never write another good story again.

2. There are many paths to publication. Readers don’t care who published your novel. All they want are well-written, entertaining stories. I know I don’t go looking for books based on who published them. I just want to read something good and judge accordingly.

3. Tell the Doubt Monster to shut his (or her) gob. If you’re suffering from imposter syndrome, consider it a form of self-doubt. Cut it out.

And finally, square your shoulders, hold your head up high and be proud of your accomplishments (no matter how big or small they are that day, week or month).

Now say it with me – “I am writer, hear me roar!”

Time for the truth – who else has had imposter syndrome? And what are your suggestions for combatting it?

Eyes Wide Open

Happy Friday everyone! Casey here.

mysticink_72dpiLast week on my website, I announced the start of my very first Goodreads Giveaway to celebrate Mystic Ink, now in paperback. I was inspired, in part, by Katy Lee’s giveaway back in December. And because, I realized that while the book has been in paperback since late November, no one knew about it!!

It’s still not too late to enter, the giveaway runs until January 31 (open to US residents only, see Goodreads for all contest rules & details).

It’s interesting to me that Goodreads only allows paper books in their giveaways. I’m not sure if that is because of the inherent concern about DRM issues (digital rights management). All I know is that the reader’s world today is vastly different from the one I grew up in.

As a kid, I got my books from two places: the library and the bookstore. That’s it. The format was paperback or occasionally hardcover depending on the type of book. If someone had told me that, in my lifetime, music, movies, and books would be condensed into a digital format accessible on a single device, I would have said, “Awesome. Sign me up!”

Maybe I would have shown a smidgen of disbelief, but not too much. Hey, my reading (and movie/TV watching) of choice has always been science fiction and fantasy. I was one of the kids who watched Star Trek re-runs every day after school and geeked out over Star Wars.

But, because I’m a sci-fi fan, I also know to ask this question: “What is the evil dark side to having everything digital?”

C’mon. We all know there has to be some tarnish on the silver lined cloud of convenience and easy access. As Rumpelstiltskin always says on Once Upon a Time, “Remember,dearie. There’s always a price!”

Here is what concerns me the most. Eventually, maybe not in my lifetime, if all physical copies of books, music and movies become obsolete, who really controls ownership of that content?

Already, courts are working to decide if customers who buy e-books are only leasing them or do they own them? With a physical book, you can give it away, sell it or keep it forever and pass it to your heirs.

Right now, if you buy a book from Amazon or B&N (or whoever), you are only licensing that content. It doesn’t really belong to you, the reader. And someday, if you don’t even have a physical copy of your digital content, that means you have to go through a gatekeeper to buy it, store it, and use it.

A gatekeeper could be a benevolent corporation or maybe a controlling, not so nice, company (or gack – the government!). Today, cloud storage is free, but will it be tomorrow?

Whoa! This all sounds so Orwellian, doesn’t it?

Now with all that said, I do own e-readers (Nook, Kindle), Kindle Fire,and an iPod Touch, in addition to hundreds of physical copies of books, CDs, DVDs/Blue Ray, etc. IMG_1440And, since I’m a writer, I like knowing that my books ultimately belong to me (and I have the control).

I am not advocating that digital content is bad. I love it. If it weren’t for the computer age, I wouldn’t have spent the last 23 years working from home and watching my sons grow to (almost) young men. And my books would probably still be languishing in some slush pile if it weren’t for small presses.

All I ask, dear Scribesters, is keep your eyes wide open and consider the future possibilities.

Hopefully, I haven’t scared you all away. Anyone else see the evil dark side? Or, conversely, the positives of digital content?

When in Doubt, Throw in a Flying Monkey . . . or Three!

Happy Friday everyone! Casey here.

Right before Christmas Day I swore that I would finish edits to Mystic Storm so I could send it to my first readers. This book really challenged my resolve. Unlike my other books, it’s taken me all year (on and off) to complete the story.

Part of the problem – I knew the story was missing something. I wasn’t exactly sure what was missing or how it should be fixed. Silly me, instead of following my own tried and true advice – keep going and look back later – I stopped.

Then I was snared, snarled, in a quagmire – take your pick. I was stuck. I even wrote another entire novel (Misfortune Cookie) under the belief that time would solve the problem. You know, a little perspective and time apart and the solution would present itself.

Well. . . no. That didn’t work.

Instead, I had to suck it up and finish, word by gruelling word. Because, by golly, I was finishing Zephyr’s book in 2012. So there.

As a result, this year, I skipped NaNo and finished the first draft. Finally. Problem solved right?

Again. No. The something was still missing. Not a big something, but a more subtle element was needed earlier in the story. By this time, as you can imagine, I was really, really sick of Mystic Storm. Zephyr and I were barely on speaking terms at this point.

What’s a writer to do?

Throw in the flying monkeys. In my case, I did that – literally. Sorry, you’ll have to wait for the actual book to find out how.

The point here is this – conflict is king. If you don’t have it, you don’t have anything. I had clearly defined goals and motivation (internal and external) and I had some conflicts but I needed more of the right kind of conflict. The kind that moves the story along. Never, never throw in a flying monkey (or whatever conflict you choose) just because. It has to serve a purpose or your reader will know you are padding your word count.

Once I solved the “Case of the Missing Something”, I made those edits and now the book is in the hands of my trusted first readers (who are actual readers and not writers). If it passes their reader instincts then I know I’m good to move onto the next stage – more edits!

Whew!

Who knew that some flying monkeys could bring my hero and heroine closer together. Funny how life works isn’t it?

Fellow writers, how do you solve for the missing something?