Tag Archives: Mystic Storm

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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Books are Like Babies

Welcome friends. Casey here.

MysticStorm2_850First off, can you believe it’s already August? Where has the summer gone? There’s something about this time of year (and around Thanksgiving) where I feel like I’m on time’s roller coaster ride.

One minute it’s May and then suddenly August is here and I feel like the whole summer has flown by. I suspect the school calendar plays a part in this phenomenon because younger son would always start whining about having to go back to school (the infamous countdown would begin).

Well, not this year. Steady readers of this blog, may recall he graduated in June (my baby, my baby!). This year he and his older brother will be attending college together. So while they are still going to school, there is no complaining involved (well, except for the ridiculous cost of college texts).

All this thinking about time, combined with the recent birth of the royal baby (HRH Prince George) got me to thinking about how books are born in my brain. While pursuing two books at once (Mystic Hero is pulling to the lead, so by the time you read this, it might be the only book I’m writing), I’ve noticed that the story is often born while I’m writing it.

What?!? But what about all that talk of plotting and planning?

Oh, those things still happen. But like any story, I leave room for new ideas to hatch. I also rely on the characters to dictate how they react to the barriers I toss out. There is no way I can script every waking moment of the story. I decide on the big events and letUndeadSpaceInitiative_200 the rest fill itself in.

So like a baby, sometimes a book can take forever (Mystic Storm - almost ten months) and others are done in less time (Misfortune Cookie - two months). The Undead Space Initiative poured out of my brain like there was a big hole in it and I could barely keep up!  (Note: this is writing time. Not the time it took for me to plot and plan.)

And like babies, nature can’t be rushed. Some characters, like Zephyr, in Mystic Storm, gave me nothing but trouble. I think it may be because of the whole “cursed to be a woman by day” thing (which I am not apologizing for!).

Not to be too graphic, but any woman who has gone through labor knows that babies don’t just come out in one easy push. And neither does my writing. I can have a week of super productivity and then another week where I have to flog myself to sit down and write. However, I will add a caveat. I did have younger son in my bathroom (in under a half hour of going into labor). He was apparently so eager to enter the world, he couldn’t wait!

Just goes to show –  you never know!!

Has anyone else had this experience? Do you have some books that just take forever to come out of your head?

Me and my baby!
Me and my baby!

The Play is the Thing by Casey Wyatt

Happy Friday everyone. Casey here!

TRR Sizzling Summer Reads 2013Two announcements. The first: I’m participating in The Romance Review’s Sizzling Summer Reads Party. Check it out starting June 1st!  Click on the lovely beach to the left and you will arrive at the party.

The second piece of news is at the end. (I know, such a tease!!)

One of my favorite courses in college was studying Shakespeare’s comedies and tragedies. An often quoted line among thespians is “the play’s the thing.” I spent seven years in drama clubs and amongst the players it took on a different meaning. The play was the thing. The thing we were striving to perfect and perform to the best of our abilities.

But that is not the thing that Shakespeare meant. The popular line is from Hamlet:

“I’ll have grounds more relative than this—the play’s the thing wherein I’ll catch the conscience of the King.”

The thing in this case, is evidence corroborating the information received from a ghost – that his uncle murdered his father. Hamlet would do this by performing a play at court and adding in a few lines about regicide. Then the prince would wait and watch for his uncle’s guilty reaction.

To modern ears and eyes, this seems a rather convoluted and unscientific way to ascertain guilt, but back in the Renaissance, it was a common psychological belief that you could subconsciously influence the guilty person’s mind with a mere suggestion. Thus, the villain would be revealed through either expression (a guilty look) or action (full out confession).

So, what does this have to do with writing? And have I completely lost my mind?

No, my mind is still fully intact. This has to do with plotting your story. This is the third part of my plotting process, after the initial premise and shallow character identification.

I use a three act structure – just like a stage play. There are a million ways to plot a novel and this is just what works for me. Like the other stages of the process, this is high level. Think thirty thousand feet in the air looking down.

Like Hamlet, I throw out a suggestion of what might occur. Later, as I go more in-depth, concrete plot points are teased to surface, much like the uncle’s guilty conscience.

Very simply:

Act One – introduce your character in their everyday world. Then, introduce the event that will move them out of their comfort zone (aka the call to adventure). Like before, I write one, short paragraph.

Act Two - this is where the bulk of the action should occur. The place many authors find themselves with a sagging middle if they aren’t careful. But that shouldn’t been a blip on the mental radar at this point. Right now, think obstacles. You don’t have to specify the problems. Only note the bare bones, overreaching issue (for example – stop evil overlord from achieving world domination or save beloved homestead from being destroyed by greedy real estate developer). That’s it. As mentioned in previous posts, the less the better. The assignment here – write a sentence or two. That’s it.

Act Three - resolution. The happy ending. The happy for now. The main bulk of the plot concluded. For me, I often only know the very, very end. Since I write romance, they all lived happily ever after. I usually don’t have more than a sentence or two.

Again, the plot details will come. Just not right now.

Normally, I would give you examples of my own work, but since spoilers are involved, I’m not. Instead, I’d like to announce -

Mystic Storm is on sale now!

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Share and share alike. How do you like to plot your stories? Have you ever laid a mental trail hoping to achieve a specific result?

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.

Wallowing and Other Coping Mechanisms

Yay! It’s Friday. Casey here.

A common misconception amongst non-writers (and new writers) is that once you’ve been agented, published or signed a book deal, you will never face rejection again.

Pig at OSV
Professional wallower.

Well, I’m here to say, “Not true. You can and will receive rejections. Again and again.” While, I recently sold a book, two more were rejected. That’s how it goes.

It’s inevitable. And the sting of the most recent rejection can be just as strong as that first one.

First off, know that you’re not alone. I know every single one of the Scribes has felt the same pain. Sometimes, the same book that resulted in a book deal was rejected by many other publishers. J.K. Rowling. Need I say more??

Casey’s tips for handling rejection:

1. Wallow. Yes, that’s right. Feel bad about it. At least for a little while. Depending on the tone of the rejection, my wallowing can last anywhere from 15 minutes to the entire day. Then, I brush myself off and keep going. Anytime I start dwelling means I have to work on my next book. Onward and upward, I say!!

2. Don’t take it personally. So hard to do. I won’t lie. Some writers get mad and defensive. Others assume they suck as writers. Most land somewhere in between.

3. Be professional (see above). Writing is a profession. Thank the agent or editor for their time. DO NOT, under any circumstances, argue with them, demand a more detailed reason or be rude. All that will do is label you as an amateur and possibly get you a “reputation”. Don’t be that writer.

4. If you received more specific feedback, put it away and come back to it when you can look it with a calm, reasoned mind. Then decide if you want to make changes or submit elsewhere as is. It goes without saying that if you are getting the same comment over and over ( and I don’t mean – this isn’t right for us or any of the other standard dismissals), then you may need to make changes.

5. Don’t throw in the towel. Keep writing and keep learning. Honestly, that should never stop. If you think you don’t have more to learn, then remember – Pride goeth before the fall. Just sayin’.

And finally, focus on the future. In my case, MYSTIC STORM is coming out the end of May 2013!! And here’s the cover:

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Share and share alike! I know we all have rejections lurking in our past.

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?

Grab A Hold and Don’t Let Go!

Welcome to another Friday. Casey here. Today I’m switching gears. I’m not going to talk about writing but reading instead.

After I finish a manuscript and send it on its merry way, I go on a reading binge. After finishing Mystic Storm, I’ve become a story glutton. If you’re my friend on Goodreads, it looks like I’ve gone crazy.

And I guess I have! I won’t bore you with all the books I’ve recently completed but I will share a few that really grabbed a hold of me and wouldn’t let me go until I hit the end.

1. The False Prince by Jennifer A. Nielsen – this book was a Kindle daily deal. I tried a sample and within about 8 seconds I was buying it. I am not sure what age group this is really aimed for (Scholastic published it) but it has that same wide audience appeal that Harry Potter had. This book is fabulous and it’s awesome that the sequel is coming out today (March 1st). Yahoo! Seriously if you read any book on my list, read this one.

2. One Good Earl Deserves A Lover by Sarah MacLean – Here I forayed into the realm of historical romance. Omigosh, I love this author’s writing. Immediately after finishing this book I realized that this was book 2 so I bought (and read) – A Rogue by Any Other Name. Both books – Fun and fantastico! I plan on reading more of her books for sure.

Let me break here and say, notice none so far have been paranormal romance or urban fantasy. But I can’t stray too far from the genre I know and love which brings me to  . . .

3. The Woodcutter by Kate Danley. Also purchased as a Kindle daily deal. Thank you Amazon because I may have never found this book. It’s really a fairy tale of sorts. Gritty, lyrical, and poignant. If you like Once Upon a Time or fairy tales in general, you’ll probably enjoy this book.

Okay, last one.

4. Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey – by the Countess Carnovan. This one’s for you Downtown fans. All about Highclere Castle and Lady Almina, the 5th Countess of Carnovan. For King Tut aficionados – her husband, the fifth earl, is the very same Carnovan who financed Howard Carter’s excavation of the boy king’s tomb. I read this on my Kindle and drank up every fascinating detail.

I could go on and on. But I won’t! Now it’s your turn.

So everyone, what good books have you read lately? Please share!!