Tag Archives: The Undead Space Initiative

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!

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.

Do Not Disturb – Daydreaming in Progress

Happy Friday everyone! Casey Wyatt here.

Shh… hold on a moment. I’m staring out my window. Aren’t my squirrels cute? I know I should be writing but I’m vegging.

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I’m not thinking about anything writing related right now either. And that’s okay.I’m remembering a recent trip to Ikea with my buddies, Katy, Suze and J. We had a lot of fun with those owl puppets.

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I’m letting my mind wander while I look at this. . . . this is such a divine tree.

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I’m a true believer in daydreaming/vegging out/being lazy. I can’t think of a single idea that originated from me sitting down and saying, “I will now generate story ideas.” That totally doesn’t work for me.

Here’s where my past ideas came from:

  • Mystic Ink - baby name book while I was researching a totally different story.
  • The Undead Space Initiative - driving my car.
  • Misfortune Cookie – while daydreaming during my day job. Let me clarify – I was working on something repitive and my mind went into some other dimension.
  • Ascension – during a car ride.
  • Unnamed projects in the works – various places like sitting around being a couch potato, waiting in line at the grocery store, watching the news, and driving in the car (that seems to be my biggest idea generator).

The best ideas always sneak up on me when I least expect them! Kind of like those gremlins in the dryer that steal socks – no one sees them, yet the results are the same – two go in – one comes out. And don’t tell me I’m the only one with them! Either that, or I have a pocket dimension in my basement.

I have to thank Jamie for her post Monday - I don’t wanna. It reminded me that it’s normal to not do anything once in a while. In fact, I would argue that if you don’t stop and stare out the window regularly, you will never, ever have any fresh ideas again.

What does everyone else think? Can you command your mind to be creative? Or do you have to trick it like I do?

Scents and Sensibility

Happy Friday everyone! Casey here with more writing tips to share.

One piece of advice that new writers (and even non-newbies) hear frequently is – “Use the five senses.” This is a corollary to “show, don’t tell.”  If you want to show, not tell, then one of the ways to do that is to use the five senses.

We all know what the five senses are: taste, touch, hearing, smell, and sight. But how does one seamlessly incorporate the senses into writing?

1. Be in the moment. One of my favorite techniques is to think in first person, even if the book is in third person. If your character walks into a room, ask yourself – what does he or she see? What do they hear? What do they smell? Now, you do not have to incorporate all three of these senses in the scene. Only if they are relevant (more on that later.)

Cherry Cordial, The Undead Space Initiative, taking a good look at Ian McDevitt.

Not wanting to look at his tempting neck again, I stared at his hands instead. Big mistake. Long tapered fingers, smooth palms, and a crescent shaped scar between his thumb and forefinger. I like a man with big strong hands.

2. Use the sense or senses, that fit the scene. Writing a love scene? Then that is a place where you might want to concentrate more on touch, taste, smell. But don’t forget sounds and sight can be sensual too. This is the place for silken skin, a lover’s sigh or the coppery glint of firelight in the heroine’s hair. You get the picture!

From Misfortune Cookie:

“Gabriel, this is so good. I haven’t had anything like this since my grandmother’s.” The flaky crust melted in my mouth. Tart apples, perfectly tender and coated with cinnamon and spices exploded with flavor. And the ice cream, so thick and creamy, had to be homemade.

3. Use the senses well and with restraint. It’s easy to go a little crazy and over describe! Overuse of the five senses can cause your reader to put the book down. Also, use them logically. If it’s an action scene, then your heroine or hero is unlikely to stop and take the time to wax poetic about a particular sight or smell. But maybe, they’ve been injured and they can taste the metallic tang of blood in their mouth. Or there is a sound that gets your heroine’s attention.

From The Undead Space Initiative:

Meaty thwacks rang out in the alley as I passed by.

Do not look.

A soft oomph, followed by a clipped English accent, “Try that again, bastards.”

4. Make or find lists of five senses words. And steer clear of the over-used ones if you can. I see this a lot in paranormals- all the alpha males smell like “dark spices.” This is also true in love scenes where it’s easy to overdo the “colorful words” and start using euphemisms instead aka purple prose!

From Mystic Ink:

Heat pressed against his side, comforting him. When he wrapped his arm
around the warmth, a feminine sigh escaped.

5. Look for places where you’re telling and not showing. If you have -  he smelled cookies, then replace it with how the cookies smelled.

From Mystic Ink:

A sultry summer breeze drifted by, carrying the sickening sweet scent of decay mixed with salt water from the nearby Mystic River. She wrinkled her nose. The heat wasn’t doing the corpse any favors either. The wind reversed. Cinnamon and warm dough from the bakery next door wiped away the stench.

You can always add the five senses in after you complete the first draft. If you find it’s hanging you up while writing, skip them and come back to it in editing.

Practice exercise: Observe the photo below and apply the fives senses. (Yes. These are my cupcakes of doom. Those of you who have tasted them have a leg up! Hopefully you liked them!).

Remember this is practice, no input from The Doubt Monster allowed.

Happy writing everyone! What are your tips for using the five senses? And if you have questions, ask away!

Speaking of senses, over at my blog, I share a recipe – Galloping Goulash!

Give a Hoot!

Happy Friday everyone! Casey here! I hope you’ve had a great week.

One quick announcement – The Undead Space Initiative is on sale now! Thanks to everyone who purchased copies. I appreciate it!

I’m always looking for new ways to use my time more efficiently. I recently signed up for the free version of Hootsuite (thank you Jennifer Fusco for the tip). Now, I received this information a while ago from Madame Fusco, but I was reluctant to sign up for YET another social media tool. I’d tried Tweetdeck and was completely underwhelmed and gave up using it.

With another book release looming in my future (and a huge bout of indecision about promotion), and feeling disorganized and out of control, I did what I always do  -  step back, assess, and organize.

My solution: give Hootsuite a try. So I signed up for the free version and gave it a whirl. (And yes, I do love that little owl logo – see here for my admitted owl obsession).

After the initial set up (which took about two minutes because I had to create and document another new password), I was asked to choose the social networks I wanted to connect to. With the free version, I was limited to five. I had a tough decision to make because I also manage the Scribes’ Twitter and Facebook pages. And I belong to several Facebook groups too.

In the end I chose to use my own pages for the trial run. So I hooked up my Facebook profile, fan page, my Twitter account, and my WordPress blog. Once I did that Hootsuite presented all my information on a series of dedicated tabs and then asked me to choose the “streams” I wanted to view.

Basically that means – how much information do I want displayed? For example on Facebook, you can view wall posts, news feeds and events (to name a few). With Twitter, I can view lists, mentions, the twitter feed, and sent tweets.

The best thing about Hootsuite is scheduling messages. Hootsuite allows you to add photos, documents, and links. Then you can decide the date/time where you want them to appear (FB page, Twitter, your blog).

I have to say – it’s pretty sweet. With minimal effort, I can now schedule my tweets etc. for my weekly blog posts or announce my latest buy link therefore saving me time. If I were to upgrade to the full package ($9.99) a month, I could use their bulk scheduler, connect to an unlimtied number of social networks, and more.

Hootsuite has other free features like analytics that I have yet to explore, but I’m taking baby steps for now!

So far I’ve had a good experience with Hootsuite and I would recommend it for those of you who are time-strapped. Especially if you are on a blog tour or gearing up for your next promotion. The scheduling aspect is my favorite part.

Anyone else using Hootsuite? Any time-saving tips you want to share with the rest of us? And if not Hootsuite what other time-saving applications would you recommend?

Decisions, Decisions . . .

Hello everyone Casey Wyatt here. Another Friday has arrived! Last week I shared my worksheet for goal, motivation, and conflict (GMC).This week, I’d like to talk about turning points.

But first – ****Alert**** Adult language is used in this post. Consider yourself warned! 

Turning points are decisions/situations that change the course of your character’s life. Just like in the real world, your characters should face circumstance that will force them to take action or make choices they never would have otherwise.

Part of crafting turning points is knowing your characters GMC and fitting it into the overall plot. If your heroine’s is coasting through life with as little drama as possible, you know what you have to do to her, right?

Shake her world up.

For example, in The Undead Space Initiative, when the story starts, Cherry is comfortable in her current life. Sure, she’s a vampire bound to her sire and family, but other than complain about freedom, she is not really doing anything to achieve that goal.

She will stay in her comfort zone, until the moment she’s walking to her car and comes across this situation in a nearby alleyway:

I whistled a tune. The song died on my lips. A sweet, musty odor, like grave dirt mixed with lilies stopped my feet. I scanned the area. Suddenly, I wasn’t the biggest, baddest thing on the block.

Revenants.

They always traveled in packs. Enough of them could take me down. Revenants were cousins to vampires, undead beings with too much spirit. Essentially ghosts with physical reality.

I picked up the pace, steering toward the middle of the street and well away from dark corners. If I had a heart rate, it would have been pounding. My blood was rare and prized. One sip and the revenants would keep me alive to serve as a drink dispenser.

I fished through my bag. Where was my cell? Jonathan would come. Provided I could find the damn phone.

Meaty thwacks rang out in the alley as I passed by.

 Do not look.

A soft oomph, followed by a clipped English accent, “Try that again, bastards.”

I looked.

A lone and gorgeous male vampire had been captured. Three revenants had him pinned against the wall. Two held his arms and one pinned his legs. Three more surrounded him like a pack of knife-wielding hyenas.

The vampire snarled. Long fangs bared, presumably pissed off at his capture. With his sculptured physique, he could handle the situation. Right?

None of the baddies had noticed me yet. I could leave.

So, let me break in here. Cherry could have walked the other way at this point. A normal person probably would have (or at the very least called 911). But you know that’s not what’s going to happen right?

If she walked away and drove home:

1. The reader wouldn’t like her too much (and rightly so).

2. The story would pretty much be over or at the very least totally boring. Both offenses that rate tossing the book across the room.

Let’s go back to the alley.

Another punch landed, connecting with the vamp’s mouth. The crack echoed in the alley. Liquid splattered, followed by cruel laughter.

The vampire hottie spat, his lip broken. Blood trickled down his jaw, seeping into the stark white collar of his button down shirt. “Think twice before you cut me, mate. I’ll smash all of your fucking heads in.”

“Shut up, meat.”

One added, “I’m so scared,” before swinging his knife and tearing a gash in the vampire’s chest. The pack laughed. A revenant approached the vampire with IV bags.

Crap-a-roni, now I had to get involved. They planned to bleed him out. That’s what revenants did. They took a vampire’s blood and drained him or her dry. The blood was then sold to the highest revenant bidder. They believed our blood could remove the excess spirit from their bodies, returning them to their true vampire form.

Problem is—it’s a myth. There’s no way for a revenant to become a vampire, any more than I could become a zebra if I wanted to. These guys were zealots. Deranged lunatics.

“This is your last warning, blokes,” Mr. Sexy English accent said. I tried not to shiver at the sound of his rich voice. Heady whiffs of his sweet scented blood drifted my way. Like a fine wine, the smell promised a delicious and satisfying taste. Saliva pooled in my mouth. My fangs dug into my bottom lip.

“Well lookee here!”

Once again, Cherry thinks about leaving but doesn’t. Why? Because she can’t walk away and leave someone in danger. It’s not in her nature. And later, this personality trait plays heavily in the events to come. Right now, it’s too late for her to do anything else but fight.

Perfect!! An unhappy, off balance heroine is what you and your readers want.

In this brief excerpt you should have learned a few things:

  • Cherry cares about others beside herself and even though she was scared, she didn’t walk away.
  • Her life will never be the same.
  • And she just met her hero.

In addition, she has faced the first turning point in the story. This is often refered to as “The call to action”. Events have been set in motion that will change her life and Ian’s.

Like last week, there’s homework. Go to your WIP in progress and document the following:

  • The “call to action” – major turning point number 1.
  • Any additional turning points (where the situation forces a change in behavior or direction of the plot). At least once, the plot should move one step forward and two steps back.
  • And lastly, “the black moment” – when you yank the rug out from under them and leave them (and your reader) believing there is no way they can overcome the obstacle you just chucked in their path.

Gold star time! How did you do? Did you notice anything missing? And remember, an offbalance heroine/hero = a page turning reader.

For additional information check out Michael Hauge’s site and his Six Stage Plot Structure. And hang onto your results. If you have clear turning points, you can use them in your synopsis!

If you have time, stop by my blog – Gone Fishin’ - where I share a few photos of favorite places.

Sex and Zero-G

Happy Friday everyone! Casey here!

One of fun parts of writing is research. Normally, I don’t do very much research other than getting a feel for a geographic location (thank you, Google Earth) or learning more about a specific process (tattooing) or a particular bit of history (like naming conventions for Chinese males).

I love history and learning about new cultures, places or people. But when it comes to writing, I tend to steer clear, otherwise I would never finish anything. And I don’t want to be overwhelmed with too many facts or details.

However, when the subject was vampires in space or more specifically, the undead on Mars, I couldn’t wait to dig in. In a few short weeks, my next book, The Undead Space Initiative is coming out. Before I wrote the book, I did some research on space travel and conditions on Mars. I visited NASA‘s website and Google Mars (yes, can you believe it? There is a such a thing!)

Aside from a lifetime’s worth of experience reading Sci-Fi novels, I also turned to a book byMary RoachPacking for Mars. I had a blast reading this book.

I learned many fun and fascinating facts such as:

  • NASA hired veterinarians to create the first meals for astronauts (and how they couldn’t understand why people didn’t want to eat food shaped like kibble).
  • There are studies out there, where you can be paid to not leave bed for a year at a time (literally – you can’t get off the bed – you must sleep, eat and do everything else in the bed). The purpose of this is to understand the long-term effects of zero-G.
  • A great deal of scientific know how and design went into making an actual toilet in space. The book goes into ridiculous detail so I will spare you.
  • Japanese astronauts are locked into small rooms with each and made to fold paper cranes for hours on end (to study personality and other behavioral dynamics).

There is so much more, but you’ll have to read it yourself to find out the rest.

Now, in case you’re wondering, and because I did bring it up in the title of this blog – can you have sex in space?

The books touches on the subject with a bit of thinly veiled frustration. While there have been no officially documented studies sanctioned by any space faring government, there are plenty of rumors in the space community, that it is possible. I came up with my own conclusions for purposes of storytelling.

So, what does any of this research have to do with my book?

Everything and nothing.

I’m a big believer in verisimilitude or the appearance of reality. Ms. Roach’s book helped solidify my belief that the undead, like vampires, zombies and revenants would do very well in space and on Mars.Here’s why:

They are dead.

They don’t need to breathe, eat or use the toilet.

Their bodies can stand extreme temperatures and they won’t get cancer from gamma ray bursts.

Quite simply, they are perfect recruits for settling Mars.

And while it was fun to learn about space toilets, and kibble, none of those things appear in my book. None of my characters break out into spontaneous bouts of paper crane folding either.

I did use facts as best I could. Yes, there are clouds in the Martian sky, dust storms that last for days, and scientists believe there is water in the Martian permafrost. But there are plenty of other things in the book that are my own invention.

And no, I won’t say what they are! You’ll have to read the story to find out how vampires travel in space and learn to live on Mars.

While we’re on the subject of research and sex – if you have a moment – please stop by and visit my blog today - 60 Inches of Glory where I talk about one of my favorite tools for research (and get your mind out of the gutter!).

How much research do you like to do before writing? And how do you use those facts? Or does the thought of research cause you to break out in hives?