Tag Archives: Zephyr

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!

MysticStorm2_850

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.

Attack of the Back Cover Blob

Another Friday is upon us! Yay! Casey here. Just a reminder, it’s still not too late to enter my Goodreads Giveaway for a paperback copy of The Undead Space Initiative (don’t wait, it ends midnight on 2/28).

IMG_1581 I don’t know about anyone else, but I find writing back cover copy to be more daunting and frustrating then writing an entire novel.

After I completed Mystic Storm and submitted it to my editor, I realized I’d never written a short blurb about the story. Normally, I write a rough draft blurb before I start a book to save time later with the query process.

But since I didn’t have to query this time – Oops – @#%#  – totally forgot. What was I thinking?

In any case, I found myself scrambling to come up with those precious few sentences that would capture a reader’s attention and make them want to read more.

My first attempt. Pathetic. And this is only a part of it. There’s more and its utter crap!

It’s not easy being the God of the West Wind, especially after the Fates administer their own unique brand of punishment. Now, Zephyr must live a dual existence until he figures out how to break the curse. As if his life isn’t complicated enough, a Muse, Kalliope Parthenos arrives on his doorstep searching for her missing brother Niko. Inquisitive and damn sexy, she is one temptation he can’t afford to indulge. Not while he’s under a curse and forced to lie every step of the way.

Kalli’s been watching out for her irresponsible brother for as long as she can remember. Used to rescuing him various scrapes, this time he’s angered a witch and been transformed into a pig. If they fail to save him, he’s destined for the dinner plate and Zephyr may end up cursed for eternity.  

Bleck. I don’t like it. It doesn’t really scream romance and seems to be all about Niko. Plus it gives away a major plot point that doesn’t need to be stated yet (shh, don’tIMG_1594 tell anyone).

So I went back to the drawing board and asked myself the following questions.

1. Who is the hero? And who is the heroine?

2. What do they want when the story begins? Or what is their problem? Notice, not what they ultimately achieve or end up wanting later in the story.

3. What are their initial barriers? Or what do they have to lose?

I focused on what is happening in the first chapter or two because the idea is to entice the reader to want to read more. Not to give away the whole story. Kind of like a query letter. In fact, most of the time, I use the query letter as the back cover copy (minus all the “business” bits).

So what did I end up with?

The Fates haven’t been kind to Zephyr, God of the West Wind. After interfering in a Hero’s Journey, they’ve cursed him. Yeah, he probably deserved it. But come on, did he really have to spend his daylight hours trapped in the body of a woman? And did they have to take away his power over the West Wind too?

As if his life isn’t complicated enough, a Muse, the supernatural equivalent of a tabloid journalist, appears on his doorstep. So what if she’s irresistible, whip smart and probably the only female on the planet who doesn’t find him charming, he has dangerous secrets that he will do anything to protect.

Kalliope is a Muse on a mission: Find her wayward brother, Niko, and bring him home before the other Muses discover her mission. By leaving their island sanctuary, she’s broken the “rules”, but she’ll risk banishment to save him from yet another ill-fated scheme. She’ll even accept help from Zephyr, the immortal world’s most undeniably gorgeous and notorious rake.

Granted, this still needs streamlining and the approval of my editor, but it’s better than what I had before – nothing!

How do you write your back cover blurbs? And what tips or tricks do you have to share about your process?IMG_1622

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 conflictsflying monkeys 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?

Cal’s Double Chocolate Cherry Cookies

Good day, 7 Scribes fans!

Calder Quinne here, stepping in for Casey Wyatt. She’s busy writing her next novel, Mystic Storm about Zephyr. Seriously, I don’t understand why the old wind bag, excuse me, God of the West Wind needs his own novel.

Whatever.

In case you don’t know me, I’m a demigod son of Ares and am madly in love with Nix, my sexy, sea nymph wife (see Mystic Ink for more details). Since my retirement from the Delian League (supernatural police force for all you newbies out there), I’ve become the proprietor of a bake shop – S’more to Love.

One thing I quickly learned was that women (and a lot men too) love chocolate with an almost fanatical obsession. Chocolate is worshipped to the point that I’m sure you won’t be surprised to learn there is a Goddess of Chocolate -Ixcacao. Supposedly, she’s part of the Aztec pantheon, but no one’s seen her in centuries.

I’m here to share one of my wife’s favorite recipes. I can vouch these cookies will put a smile on any chocolate lover’s face.

Here’s what you need:

  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 1 cup butter or margerine, softened
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1/4 teaspoon almond extract (if don’t have it, substitute 1 teaspoon vanilla extract instead)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened baking cocoa
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup quick cook oats
  • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1 cup dried cherries

1. Heat oven to 350 F. In a large bowl, beat sugar, butter, milk, egg, and almond extract with an electric mixer until smooth. Stir in remaining ingredients. Drop dough by rounded tablespoons on an ungreased cookie sheet. I use parchment paper – the cookies bake more evenly and it’s easier to clean. Remember to leave about 2 inches between the dough.

2. Bake 10 to 12 minutes or until surface is no longer shiny. Another way to check for doneness – touch the center and if it barely leaves an indent – they’re done. Immediately remove the cookies onto a cooling rack.

Yield: about 4 dozen. But seriously, they won’t last that long.

Thanks for having me today. If you’re ever in Mystic, CT be sure to stop by and say hi. Remember to support your local businesses!

Got any questions? Shoot’em my way!