The Story Spark for REEDE Plus Excerpt

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If you haven’t read any of my award winning Badari Warriors series, here’s the background:

Genetically engineered soldiers of the far future, the Badari were created by alien enemies to fight humans. But then the scientists kidnapped an entire human colony from the Sectors to use as subjects in twisted experiments…the Badari and the humans made common cause, rebelled and escaped the labs. Now they live side by side in a sanctuary valley protected by a powerful Artificial Intelligence, and wage unceasing war on the aliens. 

When I thought about what elements went into writing my latest Badari Warriors novel, I realized there were several threads coming together that influenced Reede’s adventure. I really hadn’t done much with him since he’d been introduced in the first book as being the Alpha’s second enforcer and then in MEGAN AND MATEER’S BABY I showed how fierce and unsympathetic he could be as he tracked down the human accomplices in Megan’s kidnapping. He had no mercy.

But of course being the author, I knew there was a sweet guy well-hidden at the core of the intimidating enforcer. I started thinking about how life in the Khagrish labs would have affected him as a boy – what if he’d had other dreams for himself but was forced by the alien scientists to accept the deadly role they’d genetically engineered him to fill? How would that affect him and his actions as an adult, especially now the pack is free of the labs?

The Badari treasure their freedom but as I’ve alluded to in previous books, they have found challenges they never expected.

On the bigger series arc, I thought it was also time for the Sectors to have sent someone out to look into the message that was sent way back in book three, JADRIAN. Of course nothing can be simple on this planet, so the scout crashed and was captured…and is a woman.

The romance is at the core of everything for me, although the action and adventure are important as well, and I’d been thinking for a while since having a mate is the most wonderful thing that can happen to a Badari, what would cause a man who met the woman who could be his mate to resist that bond. And what other complications might there be?

I also liked making Fallyn, the Sectors scout, an active duty military officer on a specific mission because she took a different view of how the Badari operate and what her priorities had to be than the rescued civilians might. Jill, the heroine in AYDARR, book one, was a retired Special Forces tech and a badass, but not active duty. In addition Jill was really the first human to encounter the Badari and the Khagrish so her experiences were vastly different than anyone else’s.

And of course because I write romance, there had to be a Happy Ever After ending for Reede, within the series arc that is ongoing.

So I took all of those thoughts and ideas and sat down to tell Reede and Fallyn’s story. Usually I write a book in chronological order, start to finish but in this case I felt strongly compelled to write a  specific scene, which occurs toward the end of the book and is a long conversation between Reede and Timtur, the pack’s healer. Doing that scene, which runs about 8K words, really unlocked the character of Reede for me, as he and Timtur discussed some of their past, and then I was able to go back to the beginning of the adventure and write Reede as the complex person he is. It was unusual for my Muse to want to work that way but I always give in to whatever my creative impulse might be!

Readers have asked me with some concern if REEDE is the final book in the series (no spoilers here!) and let me hasten to assure you there are quite a few more books to come.  The series arc is nowhere near wrapping up! I already have the cover for my next book in the series, DAEGAN (with the human pilot Flo as the heroine) and hope to release it in late November/early December 2019.

(REEDE is the 10th book in the series, although the cover says book 9, because TIMTUR was book 2.5 and Amazon won’t list it as part of the series. Sigh.)

The blurb:  Lt. Fallyn Damara was sent by the Sectors to investigate a strange transmission from an isolated planet and determine whether the residents of a vanished colony had been transported there by alien enemies. Fallyn’s ship crashes and she’s taken prisoner by the Khagrish scientists, to await her fate in the slate of horrifying experiments being conducted.

Reede, the second ranking enforcer in the Badari Warrior pack, volunteers to be recaptured by the Khagrish in an effort to locate and rescue Fallyn inside the deadly lab complex.

While a prisoner Reede discovers Fallyn is the woman destined to become his fated mate but the moment is bittersweet because Fallyn will be leaving their world at the first opportunity, to report back to the Sectors. He refuses to complete the mate bond, believing to do so will lead to nothing but lifelong misery for them both, separated by lightyears and interstellar politics.

For her part, Fallyn wants to shake up the rule-bound enforcer and persuade him to take a chance on love.

But first they have to escape the Khagrish.

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The excerpt (Fallyn has been sitting in her cell at the Khagrish lab and hasn’t met Reede yet): Two guards came by, one stopping in midstep as if struck by a thought. Fallyn stayed slumped against the wall in an attitude of unconcern but she listened intently.

“What about this one?” The first guard gestured in her direction.

“She’s a special prisoner. Waiting for pickup by the main security detachment at central. I guess the death of Commander Parryfilmunn at the hands of the escaped animals must have messed things up. He was supposed to be the answer to all the security problems and now no one knows what to do over there since he died.”

“Well she’s human and she’s female so she’s covered under our orders.” The second man sounded impatient. “Do you want to explain to Dr. Enishiggama why we left her out of whatever crazy test the old red hair is running now?”

“Not especially, no. She’s terrifying when she gets upset. One of the worst I’ve ever seen in fact and I’ve been stationed at more of these so-called science centers over the years than you can imagine. But the pay beats anything I could earn on the Home World so I shut up and stick it out.”

“I hear you. So, we taking this one with the next group or not?”

The guards studied her and Fallyn watched them, keeping her face blank. Being out of the cell could mean opportunity. She was trained to resist and escape the enemy whenever possible. Of course she’d only practiced those skills in simulations.

“Yeah, bring her. No harm done if she wasn’t supposed to be included. The animal’s not reacting to any of them anyway.”

Fallyn kept her excitement from showing in her face or her demeanor as the guards opened a gap in the force barrier and gestured for her to join them. One stood with his neurocontroller aimed at her while the other put her wrists into force binders behind her back, quelling any hope she’d had of attacking them. If she could get her hands on a weapon…

With the guards, she walked further down the corridor, past a few empty cells and then stopped in front of a large space full of humans.

Pushing her against the wall, the guard yelled, “Next ten females, in order of your number, assemble on the muster line. All others will retreat to the cots.”

Fallyn watched with interest as the prisoners obeyed. She was surprised the group didn’t try to attack the Khagrish, since there were only two guards, but the captives behaved quite passively. One or two mustered up the strength to glare at the enemy but no one made a move as the ten women left the cell one at a time through a narrow gap in the force barrier, were put into restraints like the ones on Fallyn and assembled into a line.

“Where are you from?” she whispered to the woman next to her.

The other prisoner stared. “Taken off a ship, the Galaxy Cluster Swan. Most of us here are from the same ship. And you? I haven’t seen you in here before.”

“I was working a freighter.” She lied. Maybe the aliens knew who and what she was but no reason to admit it. Prisoners had been known to betray others for special treatment and her active duty military status was no one’s business. “Where are we going, do you know?”

With a shrug, the woman shook her head. “Another experiment. Sometimes you get lucky and it’s nothing too bad. Sometimes you get luckier and die and this nightmare is over.”

Award winning Badari Warriors SciFi Romance Series!

Portions of this post first appeared on Pauline B. Jones’s blog…

Thoughts on the Art of the Book Blurb

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If you follow my blog, you know I do a weekly report on New Releases in my three favorite genres – scifi romance, fantasy romance and paranormal romance. I also scoop up a lot of new books that aren’t strictly in those three categories (urban fantasy, cozy paranormal mysteries etc.) and then I also add what I call ‘releases of note’, which may be hard scifi or other related genres that I find interesting and think maybe the readers perusing my list might be intrigued by.

I typically have 50-60 books each week. This is a curated list, by which I mean I don’t do any automated process and I certainly don’t cover every book released. I have my methods and my sources and I look at factors including but not limited to the covers, the reviews, the author’s past reviews, sometimes I read the “look Inside” feature to see how the author’s ‘voice’ is – I cover books in some areas I don’t personally read often, like dark romance and MPREG but which I do know the readers enjoy and would like to see…now, I don’t necessarily do all that up front checking for every book. I only have so much time and my primary priority is writing my own books! Gotta pay the rent and buy cat food for Jake the Cat…and I trust the quality of books by authors well known to me in those genres. But especially if an author is new-to-me, or has no reviews yet, or has a couple of iffy reviews…

But my main tool is the blurb the author or publisher has provided. This is the book listing’s description of who the main characters are, the challenges facing them, etc.

So today I have a little bit of a rant about book blurbs.

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To me, the main purpose is that after your professionally done cover intrigues a reader enough to click on the sales page, they’ll read the blurb and decide YES, they want to one-click this book and read it. Now I’m no authority on blurb writing. I used to have the wonderful Cathryn Cade do mine, when she was the Blurb Queen and since she stopped providing that service, I try to model my blurbs on what she did. I write M/F, so I briefly introduce the heroine, the hero and one paragraph usually about the challenge – escaping the evil alien scientists or solving the mysterious outbreak or defeating the interstellar crime syndicate. I may pose one of those “Can their love survive while escaping this disaster…?” type questions at the end. This approach seems to work for me.

When doing my new releases post I see everything from literally no blurb at all (what???! Yes, really, there are some out there) to a sentence or two, to the 3-4 quick paragraphs approach I use, to lengthy lengthy blurbs that try to give every plot point, to excerpts from the book standing in as blurb.

I kinda ruthlessly truncate the overly lengthy blurbs, frankly. I only want my already voluminous posts to be so long and OMG, just whet the reader’s interest, don’t tell try to tell them everything! (Reminder: This is all my opinion so your mileage may vary, as we authors say BUT I do see a ton of blurbs every week.) I do indicate there’s more blurb on the ebook seller page.

The ones that really puzzle me are typically on the later books in a series where the author blithely assumes anyone checking out their book must have read the entire series to this point and will know what is meant by something along the lines of “Frank and Sallie go to Weird Town to tell the wamluks the silver talzq is broken. Harry rides along.” Huh?

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(Shaking my head in sorrow for lost opportunities.) Okay, maybe your loyal readers will snap this up. Anyone seeing a mention of your series for the first time at around book #three to book #ad infinitum most likely won’t.  I don’t know about you but I always want new-to-me readers so I try to give an enticing blurb, and maybe (but not always) add a general paragraph about the series itself – here’s what I say about my Badari Warriors, for example:  Genetically engineered soldiers of the far future, the Badari were created by alien enemies to fight humans. But then the scientists kidnapped an entire human colony from the Sectors to use as subjects in twisted experiments…the Badari and the humans made common cause, rebelled and escaped the labs. Now they live side by side in a sanctuary valley protected by a powerful Artificial Intelligence, and wage unceasing war on the aliens. 

Sometimes, if I’m feeling extra helpful or I loved the cover or I really want a book in that genre to include, I’ll go searching for book 1 in the series and pull part of that blurb, where hopefully the author did explain the overarching concept of the series, and I’ll include that information properly labelled in my Wednesday listing along with the cryptic blurb for the latest book. But not always…it’s not really my job to sell your book.

I may also do this if the blurb really doesn’t explain the scifi or paranormal element of the plot but there’s more information in the blurb for an earlier book.  (And no, this post wasn’t inspired by the last authors I did this for – it’s been on my mind for a while!)

But what a missed opportunity to have the hundreds of people who kindly come and view my new releases report every week at least consider your series, all for the want of a little more information to intrigue them.

OK and if you’re on book #37 of a really well selling series, maybe you don’t need to bother with a blurb in any detail but how many of us enjoy that lovely state of being?

I’m not generally in favor of the excerpt approach either. For one thing, that’s what the ‘look inside’ features does to some extent, as far as allowing the reader to sample your style and the flavor of the story. For another thing, it’s often hard to know what to make of a random excerpt from a novel out of context. Personally I have a hard time relating to characters who just start ‘talking to me’ when I’m not invested even a little bit in the story yet.

And I certainly don’t think an excerpt should be your only blurb! If your characters have to carry the load of explaining who they are and the plot and everything else in an excerpt, maybe you have too much backstory and/or ‘telling’ in your novel?

Another thing to watch out for is having typos, misspellings or editing issues in your blurb. Sure we’re all human and mistakes do happen but wow, what a turnoff to a reader (speaking for myself) to see a blurb that commits multiple slips. I’m likely to pass on that one.

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I do applaud authors who include a little extra information at the end, whether it’s a serious trigger warning (I’m not getting into the whole trigger warning debate here) or a clarification that the book is reverse harem, or a bully academy, or contains material suitable only for mature readers or has a cliffhanger ending…and some people have funny taglines about general information in the series (mermaids solving cozy murder mysteries and baking cupcakes in a town where it’s always summer solstice [which I just totally made up]).

After the cover, your blurb is your most important tool to get your book into the hands of the readers (or onto their ebook readers) so even if you loathe writing blurbs (and there are still people who write them for a fee out there by the way), be sure you have a nicely polished not-too-long, not-too-short piece of prose to make us highly intrigued and need to know more!

Readers – what do you think? What kind of blurbs work or don’t work for you? Any tips for authors, including me?

reede finalAnd here’s my latest, by the way:

REEDE: A BADARI WARRIORS SCIFI ROMANCE NOVEL (SECTORS NEW ALLIES SERIES BOOK 9

Lt. Fallyn Damara was sent by the Sectors to investigate a strange transmission from an isolated planet and determine whether the residents of a vanished colony had been transported there by alien enemies. Fallyn’s ship crashes and she’s taken prisoner by the Khagrish scientists, to await her fate in the slate of horrifying experiments being conducted.

Reede, the second ranking enforcer in the Badari Warrior pack, volunteers to be recaptured by the Khagrish in an effort to locate and rescue Fallyn inside the deadly lab complex.

While a prisoner Reede discovers Fallyn is the woman destined to become his fated mate but the moment is bittersweet because Fallyn will be leaving their world at the first opportunity, to report back to the Sectors. He refuses to complete the mate bond, believing to do so will lead to nothing but lifelong misery for them both, separated by lightyears and interstellar politics.

For her part, Fallyn wants to shake up the rule-bound enforcer and persuade him to take a chance on love.

But first they have to escape the Khagrish.

Amazon      Apple Books     Kobo     Nook    Google

Award winning Badari Warriors SciFi Romance Series!

Weekend Writing Warriors Don’t Displease the Cook

better wewriwaHappy Mother’s Day! I don’t have anything about mothers to excerpt for today so I went with a snippet about the Cook in the Witch Queen’s palace, because she’s the closest thing to a motherly person in this unedited WIP about a shifter and a Girl With A Secret LOL.

Kyle is having a hard time recovering from the most recent spell casting, where the Witch Queen pulled even more of his magic to fuel her spells. The palace physician (who is also a witch) has ordered a bland diet suitable for an invalid. Caitlyn goes to the kitchen to ask for a proper meal for predator in need of strength. Nadelma the Cook is speaking.

“Strange times we’re in, with the poor shifter caught in the middle. He carved me a special wooden spoon last year for the winter festival, you know – all my favorite flowers and fruits on the handle. It’s far too beautiful to cook with and so I told him.”

Caitlyn felt the kitchen cat rubbing against her ankles. Bending down, she stroked the soft gray fur, thinking sadly how dull and matted the leopard’s fur had been. “So you’ll allow me to make something proper for Kyle to eat?”

Nadelma hoisted herself from her chair with an alarming amount of effort and said, “I’ll fix him a breakfast suitable for a warrior with my own hands and we’ll just see if that doesn’t do him more good that what the high and mighty ordered. They do their magic, I do mine.”

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 I  love and appreciate your comments and feedback! Go here  to find all the other Weekend Writing Warriors and read  an amazing variety of  terrific excerpts…

(Photo from SXC by domus71)

Even Egyptian Gods Need Editors Sometimes!

alisonThis short story is dedicated with MUCH affection to Alison Dasho, my wonderful editor, currently on the road to recovery after major surgery.

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“I hope I can get a lot of editing done today, after the odd dreams the other night,” Alison said, firing up the laptop and tucking covers around herself.

Her cat purred, kneading imposing claws in the comforter, but made no promises.

“Do you smell something?” Sitting bolt upright in the chair, Alison took a deep breath. “Like some kind of exotic flower? WHAT cheap product has the cleaning lady been using?”

Next minute there was a clap of thunder, pearly gray mist swirled into the room through the open window and she blinked as two imposing figures walked through the mist, coming to stand in front of her chair.  Reassured that the cat wasn’t upset by this sudden development, Alison narrowed her eyes, studying the newcomers.

Both men looked as if they’d stepped off the cover of a hot Carina Press historical romance – tall, muscles to spare, six pack abs, bare chested, short linen kilts…but the person on the left had the elegant head of a wading bird atop his to-die-for body. An ibis perhaps? And the guy on the right seemed strangely familiar –

“I know you, you’re Sobek the Crocodile God from Veronica’s Egyptian novels,” Alison said. “I was editing the newest one yesterday at breakfast.” She pinched her arm. “Ow! But this has to be a dream. I can’t be awake.”

“We came to ask for your assistance,” Sobek said, deep voice rumbling, handing her a single blue lotus blossom.

She set the flower next to the laptop. That’ll need a vase. “Ok, I’ll play along. What do you need and why didn’t you go find Veronica? She’s more used to dealing with you Egyptian deities than I am.”

Bowing slightly, Sobek introduced his companion. “This is Thoth, Scribe to the Gods. He tires of merely recording events and totaling 008accounts and has decided to write a novel. ” The ibis-headed one fidgeted from one foot to the other like a great bird, as Sobek continued. “Thoth requires the services of a truly masterful editor. Veronica recommended you in the highest terms.”

Making a mental note to have a small talk with Veronica about who she was giving recommendations to, Alison nodded. “Does he need developmental edits or line edits?” What am I saying?

Thoth bowed to her, hand over his heart. “See for yourself, my lady.” He snapped his fingers and a large papyrus scroll appeared on the desk, causing the cat to hiss as it scooted into the closet.

Alison stared while the scroll unspooled one laborious turn at a time, each layer rolling off the wooden spindle until the somewhat unusual manuscript covered the desk, and stretched out for six feet on either side. Wow, they’d reject this if it showed up in the slush pile! Bright red, yellow, black and turquoise hieroglyphics glowed on the papyrus. “Um, small problem here, I can’t read the writing.” Although that does look like a series of exclamation points. And he sure is using the same symbol over and over in the first section…

011“It is the story of a brave sailor who was shipwrecked and rescued, bringing great riches home to his pharaoh. I wish to read it tomorrow at a feast day of the gods,” Thoth explained. “But I am blocked. My sailor’s ship has sunk, all his companions have drowned and he’s trapped on a desert island.”

“My wife Merys suggested we ask Veronica for help and she said you might be able to guide Thoth in adding conflict and tension, layer in some foreshadowing – “

Alison held up one hand. “If you need this tomorrow, we have a problem.” She gestured at the laptop. “I have a queue of books I’m editing and I’m only supposed to be working half time right now.”

“If I exercise my magic and give you the ability to read the hieroglyphics, might you be able to help Thoth with just the desert island scene?” Sobek asked hopefully. Not waiting for her answer, he extended his hand, touching hers. Green lights flickered from his fingertips, caressing her elegantly manicured hand with a faint tingling.

Realizing the hieroglyphics made sense to her now, Alison began to read. She searched for a pen. “Too much back story here, guys. And in the next section you have your sailor telling about the ship sinking. Why not show it instead?”

Thoth made notes with his quill pen on a tablet he pulled from a pouch on his belt. “Show versus tell,” he scratched.

“You might add a character here on the island,” she said next. “Get another point of view.”

Sobek elbowed Thoth in the ribs, earning himself a glare. “See, did I not tell you?”

“You can build tension by letting the reader wonder what the island dweller’s motives are, is he or she going to help Sailor? Or harm him somehow?” Alison was getting into the flow of the story now. “You’ve got some great lyrical phrases here but you really need to use more contractions…”

So she worked with Thoth for perhaps an hour, Sobek making suggestions from time to time, until the Scribe informed the Crocodile he wasn’t getting credit as co-author, at which point Sobek lost interest and went to play with the cat, who’d crept out of hiding.

At last, waving his hands, the Scribe uttered a pithy Egyptian spell and the scroll ponderously rolled itself back onto the spindle, before disappearing with a flash of green light and a loud pop. Thoth bowed to Alison. “I thank you, my lady. I know now how to finish the tale and please my fellow gods. They’ll surely beg for a sequel. And perhaps want to make it into a play.”

“Tell Veronica to get to work on her sequel about my sister-in-law Tyema, I beg of you,” Sobek said to Alison, joining Thoth in the center of a rapidly growing cloud of mist.

Alison blinked and they were gone. “Well,” she said, “That had to be a dream – I must have dozed off.” She pushed aside the comforter, ready to go into the kitchen for more tea. “What’s this?” A single blue lotus lay on the desk, the heavenly scent fading. Goosebumps on her arms, Alison booted up the laptop, googling ancient Egyptian epic poems. “The Tale of the Shipwrecked Sailor,” she read, “Author Unknown. Legends suggest it came from the pen of the god Thoth.” Picking a spot at random in the text on the screen, she read on. “The wind grew sharp and made a constant moaning and there were hungry fourteen foot high waves…” Guess he accepted my edits!

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HUGS to you, Alison, glad you’re feeling better…I know there were too many exclamation points in my little tale and we just won’t talk about the “-ly” words! Best wishes always, from Sobek, Thoth, Merys and me LOL.

NOTE: A little group of us who are fortunate enough to work with Alison are each “gifting” her with a short short story as a get well amusement. Here’s the schedule if you’d like to read more:

Diane Dooley‘s post is already up

RL Naquin will be posting hers on Feb 11. http://www.rlnaquin.com/

J L Hilton will be posting hers on Feb 14 at http://www.JLHilton.com/

Shawna Thomas will be posting hers on Feb 19 at http://www.shawnathomas.com/

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