When I first get an idea for a story, it usually starts with a single scene. For example, when I came up with the idea for The Fourth State of Matter, I had a scene in my head of a spaceship crashing while two characters are having sex in the control chair, seemingly unconcerned by the chaos happening around them. At this point, the characters didn’t have names or descriptions. I didn’t even know if they were human or alien. In my mind, they were just “male 1” and “male 2”. So, I started by freewriting this scene, giving it as much life as I could without any background information or details. The characters managed to land on a populated asteroid before I had to stop. Then, I stepped back and carefully read over what I had written.
Sometimes, this is where a story’s life ends. If I decide there isn’t enough potential, or if reading over what I’ve written doesn’t spark any more creativity, then I’ll set it aside and move on to a new idea. With The Fourth State of Matter, however, reading over that initial freewriting scene gave me a lot of ideas for how to flesh-out the world and the characters. A whole novel slowly unfolded in my mind just from this opening scene, so I started outlining the story from scratch.
My first step for planning out a full novel is to draw the characters. I’ve found that I can’t write about a character until I’m able to draw them. Not only does this give me an image to work with, but it can have a profound impact on the story itself.
With The Fourth State of Matter, my original plan for the trio was for them to only be a duo. I wanted to write a story about a human character that gets into a relationship with two aliens. However, this changed when I was trying to draw the aliens. Brog’s design came easily, and I could immediately see a backstory for the character on the page. I had an idea to create alien characters that were partially inspired by fantasy creatures. This would give them a sense of mystery and make them seem “larger than life”. Brog is my version of a reimagined mermaid, only instead of a delicate fish-girl, he’s a powerful shark-man.
Then I created a second alien that was a counterpoint to Brog. So, I drew Xavis, whose design is partially inspired by a phoenix. I liked the contrast between an aquatic species and a winged, bird-like species. Yet, it didn’t quite look right. Something felt off. So, I set Xavis aside and tried something new. This time I used a dragon as inspiration and came up with Desmodian. This also provided a good contrast alongside Brog, with a sort of “land and sea” vibe, yet it still didn’t look right.
It was only when I had all three characters on the page, trying to decide which to use, that I realized they looked best altogether. So, the duo became a trio, and the story was altered to fit this change.
Of course, characters are defined by more than just the way they look. It’s also about their personalities. Since the trio already hand a “land, sea, and air” theme going on, I took the symbolism a step further and based their personalities on the first three states of matter. Desmodian is the solid foundation that the group is built on. Silently stubborn and unmovable, he doesn’t react much with the world around him. He puts himself where he wants to be, both literally and metaphorically, and stays there no matter what. Brog embodies a liquid state in the sense that he is more adaptable than Desmodian but still maintains his own boundaries. He’s very reactive to even small disturbances, like a ripple effect, and while he is capable of standing still, he can also become an unstoppable tidal wave when he gets emotional. Lastly, Xavis’s personality resembles a gaseous state because he is the most wild and untamed. He sometimes seems to “have his head in the clouds” like he isn’t entirely grounded. This allows him to be the most creative and versatile member of the trio, but also makes him reliant on the others to keep him on track.
Once I established the characteristics of the trio, and their connection to the first three states of matter, it was a natural conclusion to base Pet on plasma, the fourth state of matter. This is what gave rise to the overall message and theme of the story. Pet’s journey into discovering himself as a person is the primary focus of the story, so I don’t want to spoil anything by explaining too much about how Pet’s character is inspired by plasma. Just know that it is a step-be-step journey that he’s still undergoing. After two books, he’s already come a long way in his personal discovery, but there’s still a much longer journey ahead of him.
At the time, I was struggling with the storyline and the characters… Nothing seemed to click in spite of my repeated attempts to outline a general direction for it all. I’d re-written the first five chapters half a dozen times; I’d re-outlined the story the same number of times (no small feat for someone who leans more toward pantsing than plotting).
I couldn’t pants this book. Not entirely. It’s the second book in my Silver Cyborg Series, so I couldn’t just let it wander toward an HEA for my two characters and be content. The overarching story from Book One had to continue and advance and get to a point Book Three can take it in for a goal (weak sports-reference here ;-).
Apparently, I couldn’t plot the book, either. So was mired and stagnant.
BUT, then everything finally clicked. The muse hit, the planets aligned…something happened. Honestly, I credit the savage approach I took to the story over this past summer. I shredded the thing. Mercilessly. I switched things around. I cut tens of thousands of words. I turned entire chapters into alternate POVs. I was ruthless: if it didn’t move the story or characters forward, no matter how pretty my prose, I dumped it.
The experience was a lot like a plumbing blockage, to use a crude analogy. Over a year of plugging away (plunging away) to get something moving rather than merely swirling and churning, but I now have a brand new, shiny book. Tin Toy is LIVE TODAY (tosses confetti and blows party horns)!! And I’m already a few chapters into the third book in this series, Tin Soldier. In fact, I have a prelude to Tin Soldier as an entry in Delilah’s upcoming anthology: Boys Behaving Badly: Silver Soldiers. And I’m also working on my second dragon shifter story.
Whatever blockage had my writing stuck, it’s gone, and my writing is finally flowing (and in the right direction)! I gotta admit: I’m very relieved. 😉
Since I have a brand now shiny book today, I’m giving away three Kindle versions of Tin Toy to random winners that I’ll choose on Monday, December 19th. Comment with something you struggled with that finally went right for you this past year.
Grin, the hero of my most recent cyborg romance release, is an architect. He designs buildings and oversees their construction. His skills are very much in demand. He enjoys his role tremendously.
His newfound heroine, Mohini, is planning an extremely dangerous mission. The participants won’t likely survive it. They will be venturing deep into enemy territory, possibly facing battle robots and armies of undead warriors. There will be explosions and shootouts and firefights in deep space.
An architect is likely not the first hero anyone would consider for such a daring assignment. (grins)
Grin isn’t a normal architect, however. He’s a cyborg and all cyborgs were trained for battle. Many of Grin’s brethren LOVE fighting. It pleases their design.
Grin doesn’t enjoy fighting. At all. His programming is different. Killing or harming beings gives him no joy.
He will fight, however, to protect the beings he cares for. Grin will do anything to keep his daring female safe, even risk capture by a past enemy and/or death.
That, I believe, makes him even MORE heroic. He is stepping forward when needed, knowing full well he isn’t the perfect candidate for the tasks he’s volunteering to complete.
I suspect you’re the same way. You’ve tackled tasks you had no experience or interest in completing because those tasks had to be done.
Maybe you took care of a child while their parents were ill, rearranging your already busy days to ensure they were tended to and happy.
Or you helped a newcomer to your town find the post office. (That is an extremely stressful task for a direction-challenged person such as myself.)
Or you loaned a much-cherished reference book to a writer, knowing the book might be damaged or you might not get it back.
Or you asked a hard question of a leader, knowing it had to be asked but the leader wouldn’t welcome it.
These are hero moves. You might not be saving the entire world but you ARE saving someone’s world. You’re making a difference in lives and in the universe.
Tell me about your moments of heroism. I want to hear how you’ve stepped forward in the past and helped when it would have been much easier for yourself not to volunteer.
Grin And Bare Him
This cyborg will be the warrior his female requires.
Cyborgs are designed to fight. That is their primary purpose and 98.2356 percent of the manufactured warriors enjoy battle. Tremendously.
Grin, a K model, is one of the rare exceptions. When he escaped his cruel creators, he set down his sword and allocated his processors to less violent pursuits. He projects he’s left his war-waging planet rotations behind him forever.
Then he meets his beautiful, beguiling female, the one being he’s destined to protect, to claim, to love for all eternity, and his plans for peace are completely decimated.
Mohini needs a ship.
She has a dangerous mission to complete and the first step in that assignment is arranging transport to an enemy-controlled planet. The vessel she has set her sights on is guarded by the sexiest cyborg she’s ever seen.
To gain access to his ship, Mohini is prepared to kiss, caress, seduce the muscular male. The mission is her focus. The pleasure she experiences will merely be a bonus.
A female has to do what a female has to do to save the universe.
Grin And Bare Him is a Cyborg SciFi Romance set in a dark, gritty, sometimes-violent universe.
It features a humanoid female undertaking a dangerous mission, a cyborg intent on keeping her alive, and an enemy with enough firepower to blow up an entire sector.
My favorite romance trope of all time is Beauty and The Beast.
One love interest is scarred and surly and believes they are unlovable. The other love interest is beautiful and optimistic and is bursting with love.
They are complete opposites, yet they work. They’re magical together.
I can read this trope again and again, whether it is the classic Brothers Grimm fairy tale version or a steamy paranormal romance with a beast shifter in the beast role.
And I write this trope again and again. Each couple (or more) is different because each character is different. They have different histories, different traumas, different ways of withdrawing or hiding themselves from their unique worlds.
Often the beasts in my stories are the heroes. I tend to put myself in the place of the heroine when I read or write and my fantasy is being with the beast.
In Provoking Odium, my latest Cyborg Romance, however, the human heroine claims that role.
Briella is nicknamed Beast for several reasons. She appears fearless, taking on missions deemed too dangerous by others. She is a skilled pilot, a “beast” in the air. No one can fly a freighter through space like she can. She is also scarred, both physically and emotionally. Having been rejected in the past, she now pushes other beings away. She doesn’t allow anyone to get close to her…in any way.
Odium, in contrast, is physically perfect. He’s a cyborg, and they don’t manufacture unsightly cyborgs. (grins) He isn’t, what I would view as, optimistic or sunny in temperament. But he does have quite a few friends and most beings like him.
He wants to claim Briella as his female more than he has ever wanted anything or anyone else. She is his genetic match, and she is also his soul mate.
She’d realize that IF she stopped avoiding him. Odium is persistent and he is determined to care for Briella and protect her. He’s willing to give up his lifespan to do that.
What is your favorite Beauty And The Beast romance?
A Beautiful Cyborg
While accompanying his leader on a mission, Odium, an E Model cyborg, hears a distress call over the communication lines. The voice on that message makes his circuits surge with energy and all his systems light up. He has to respond to the mysterious female, would risk his lifespan and the lifespans of everyone on board their ship to protect her.
A Human Female Others Call Beast
Briella gained her nickname due to her flying abilities, her fearlessness, and her scarred countenance. Her verbal-only relationship with the sexy cyborg who answers her distress call is a steamy yet short-lived fantasy. His kind is physically perfect, and she is…not. He will uncover that truth when…if they survive the attack upon her freighter.
Provoking Odium is a STANDALONE Cyborg SciFi Romance set in a dark, gritty, sometimes-violent universe.
It features a human female intent on remaining mysterious, a cyborg warrior determined to uncover her identity, and an enemy seeking to destroy them both before they have the opportunity to meet.
I have a new release! It’s sexy, features an ex-Army vampire, and it’s set in post-apocalyptical Texas! What more could you want? Oh right, did I tell you it’s sexy? And not terribly long if you’re looking for a quick afternoon read. Did I mention it’s FREE in KU Unlimited?
I hope you’ll give the story a read, and if you have time, review it. Readers trust other readers…
I LOVE arrogant romance heroes. I love how they usually start the story thinking they know everything. They are certain they are all powerful, all knowing, are never wrong.
Then they meet their love interests.
The love interests don’t bow to their arrogance. They push back. That confuses the heroes, knocks them a bit off balance. The heroes try to reassert their control over everything and everyone. The love interests aren’t having it. They put the heroes in their place, humbling them, sometimes making them grovel.
There’s something so steamy about bringing a powerful man to his knees. (bites knuckles)
Those scenes, when written deliciously well, are re-reads for me. They are my happy places to mentally go when the world is…well… (waves at everything happening). If an arrogant hero can find humility, there is hope everyone can change, can become kinder, more generous people.
Power, the dark-eyed hero of my newest cyborg romance Seizing Power, is one of the most arrogant heroes I’ve ever had the pleasure of writing. He is the self-appointed leader of the Cyborg Council, which says it all. The cyborg warrior gave himself the role.
Power is merely one being on a council, yet his decisions are usually upheld. Because he’s intelligent, skilled in strategy, and he’s often unfortunately right.
He’s often right but not always.
Eirene Ours, his soon-to-be love interest, knows Power is wrong about one critical, life-endangering decision, a decision that could kill every cyborg in existence. She has been pushing back on it for solar cycles (for years), escalating the matter until it has reached its breaking point.
Having been taught strength respects strength, she has also built a formidable army of warriors, all loyal to her. She has formed allies with influential beings. Thousands of warships are under her control.
Eirene Ours is Power’s equal. He doesn’t yet appreciate that she has the ability, the willpower, the strategic thinking to bring him to his knees, but he will soon come to that realization. And it will be GLORIOUS.
Who is your favorite arrogant romance hero? What is your favorite grovel scene?
(And YES, this will be a grovel scene in Seizing Power.)
This cyborg believes he’s in control.
Power is the self-appointed leader of the cyborg council. Other members might debate situations. He makes the ultimate decisions.
When a threat to Homeland is revealed, he takes command of a fleet and ventures to the edge of cyborg-controlled space to investigate. He finds a rebellion led by a mysterious upstart he calls Cadet.
The plan Power derives is simple—he’ll quickly quash the uprising and teach its leader a lesson the warrior will never forget.
NO ONE challenges his authority.
Eirene Ours might be called a cadet by Power but she is NOT his subordinate. She is the arrogant E Model’s genetic match.
For much of her mature lifespan, she has desired the male, yearning for his dark-eyed gaze, craving his sure hands, longing for his respect.
That esteem was never granted. And Eirene Ours can no longer wait to earn it. There’s an external threat to their kind, a danger that might destroy them all.
Having lured Power to her home terrain, she now plans to use everything within her means — her fists, her daggers, her ship-destroying missiles — to pound that truth into her stubborn warrior’s thick metal skull.
The future of every cyborg is at stake. She can’t fail them.
Power will believe her. Or he will die.
Seizing Power is an enemies-to-lovers Cyborg SciFi Romance set in a dark, gritty, sometimes-violent universe.
It features an epic battle between two equally strong cyborg leaders, plans that go terribly yet passionately wrong, and a love that will shake the entire universe.
One of the most striking features of Plato’s classic The Symposium is Alcibaides’s entrance. It’s been edited out of televised versions due to its blatant and unapologetic homoeroticism. Alcibiades confesses his devotion to Socrates. This devotion developed after Socrates turned down his advances. In doing so, Socrates impressed Alcibiades with his desire for a deeper love, a deeper wisdom than what an attractive young man could provide with his body. Alcibiades decided to chase after Socrates from that point on, pursuing the love and wisdom embodied by the man in pursuit of them.
I’ve always been fascinated by the eternal chase, the various forms it can take. This struck me as a profoundly deep one.
Perhaps with the discomfort of a modern reader with deep matters, I made a joke out of it. I pictured Socrates with Phaedrus and Timeus in space a bit like the protagonist of Mystery Science Theater. Alcibiades would be chasing them across the universe, showing his devotion to Socrates in oddball ways, like attacking the places Socrates visited.
I mentioned this in a joking way on social media. It was A. Catherine Noon who said, “You should do it!”
Encouragement caused inspiration to flower, made me determined to give it the chance to flower. I sat down at the Peet’s Coffee in San Ramon between games at DunDraCon 2016. I’d brought my beloved Penguin classics copy from 1990 of The Symposium, the one I’d used for a core class at Cowell College, the University of California at Santa Cruz.
I started to read, remembering how much The Symposium enchanted and maddened me. Plato had such a low opinion of women, yet I was the one responding to his words, his mythology centuries later. Why couldn’t a group of women have an equally deep, intellectually arousing conversation about love?
Before long, my own symposium was in full swing. The guests were all women, only the word ‘women’ was no longer fashionable in the Intergalactic Democracy, a curious matriarchy that was an inverse of Ancient Athens. It was also a strangely magical place where food could appear on your plate, taking on the symbolic form of your words. At least it could in Agathea’s star cluster. Guests could get to the symposium just by thinking about why they wanted to go, why they wanted to accept Agathea’s invitation. Agathea, the host, could feed upon the passion within her guests’ words of love. They brought a blush to her otherwise pale cheeks.
Everything I found wondrous and frightening about technology, social media, and mythology came together in A Symposium in Space. This fear and wonder found a voice in Phaedra, my main character. In search of herself, she found love and rekindled love in surprising places.
Not that A Symposium in Space ever lost its core idea. Alcibiades became Alkibiadea, the dashing pirate queen. She’d be chasing Sokrat, my female version of Socrates across the universe in the company of Phaedra and Phaedra’s newfound spaceship, the Timea. Alkibiadea would crash my symposium as Alcibiades crashed the symposium centuries before.
My story became a science fiction tale, a fantasy, an homage to a literary classic, a crossover joke, and a Young Adult coming-of-age story all at once. No wonder it’s so hard to classify as a genre. No wonder it’s so hard to market. No wonder it holds a very special place in my heart.
Large parts of this story concern women having thought-provoking conversations. Whether they’re being pursued by space pirates or rediscovering each other as their host drinks deep of their passions at a dinner party, these women always have something important to say and to hear.
These conversations are both my homage and my comeback to Plato in all his eloquence and misogyny. They’re meant to entertain as well as inspire.
I hope you enjoy them as much as I do.
A Symposium in Space
Phaedra and her lover, Pausania, are invited to a dinner party. Only this won’t be like any party Phaedra has ever been to. Nor does Pausania want her to go. But Phaedra is determined, even if she has to find her own way to this symposium in space.
A fateful encounter with the spaceship of her dreams and the wandering philosopher, Sokrat, lead Phaedra to a unique gathering of individuals where thoughts of love are offered up…and consumed.