Nocturnal Lives

Musings from the mind of Amanda S. Green – Mother, writer, and possessed by cats

Tag: Mackenzie Santos

When characters start demanding a change of pace

As those of you who regularly follow the blog know, I’ve been working on a series of short stories set in the Honor and Duty (3 Book Series) universe. Part of this is to give fans of the series a reward for sticking with me after the fiasco that the release of Honor from Ashes (Honor and Duty Book 3) turned into. Part of it is, to be honest, to give me a break from writing novels for a couple of months. That doesn’t mean I haven’t been working on both Victory from Ashes, the next novel in the Honor and Duty series, or Dagger of Elanna, the next book in the Sword of the Gods series. I have rough drafts for both novels completed. Taking Flight (Honor and Duty) is already available on Amazon. My plan had been to finish and post the second short story, Battle Bound, this week and Battle Wounds, the third short story next week. Except I ran into a speed bump yesterday that threatens to derail that schedule.

What happened? Very simply, I had a character, a very vocal character demand that I give her equal time. She stomped her foot and did everything but hold her breath. No, what she did was much more effective. She hit me over the head with a project that would not take more than a couple of days to do because the “story” has already been written. But, as she reminded me, it wasn’t written the way she had wanted. So now she is making her demands known once more, all while giving me that same look mothers give their kids to warn them not to push back.

Who is this character? That’s simple. She is the most headstrong and vocal of all the characters who live in my head. Mac Santos. As for not writing the last book, Nocturnal Challenge (Nocturnal Lives Book 4), the way she wanted, she’s right. That book gave me fits because Mac stood in my mind, feet firmly planted so to speak, and wanted the book written in first person. Part of me considered doing it that way. The problem is that the other books of the series are written in third person. I simply could not change that this far into the series.

But now I’m considering giving in and letting Mac have a short story or two in first person. It would be simple to redo parts of the books already out from her POV. While it would be a rehash, it would be different because it would give the reader a more up close and personal insight into Mac as she makes the transition from human to shapeshifter. Will I do it? Probably, but I’m not sure what the time frame will be.

Of course, the other thing I have to look at is if there would even be a market for such a story. What say you? Would you be interested in stories from Mac’s first person point of view? I will try to post a short snippet later this morning or early afternoon.

Until then!

 

Evolution of a Character

One of the things I love most about a series is watching how the characters grow. It is more than how the deal with a particular situation that could result in life or death. It is how they relate to the people and world around them. I want characters who aren’t cardboard cutouts. I need to be able to relate to them, to their humanity, for lack of a better word.

I’m not explaining this very well — I blame it on not having enough coffee yet. So let me try again. I want to see characters who have character faults, who have challenges to meet without becoming a cardboard superhero to do so. I want them to be realistic, within the setting of the story and their own backstories, in how they respond to a situation. But I also want them to know they have faults and weaknesses and try to work to improve, or at least work with those weaknesses so they don’t keep hiding in the proverbial corner.

I started by saying I love seeing this growth in a series but, truth to tell, I love it in single novels as well. The difference is a series gives the author more time — and more situations — which can help lead to that growth. Of course, there are exceptions. Books like Gone with the Wind, 75th Anniversary Edition or A Woman of Substance (Harte Family Saga Book 1), books where years and even decades of a character’s life are covered should also have growth. It can be growth in a good way or bad, but it should be there.

That growth is something I have had to look at with my work. I hope I have done it. I think I have, at least with my two major series.

Mackenzie Santos has probably been the most challenging to write because her world has been turned upside down. Things she once thought were nothing more than the imaginings of filmmakers and authors are the realities of her life. When Nocturnal Origins opens, Mac doesn’t know what is happening to her. She is afraid she is losing her mind. Maybe the pressures of being a cop have finally gotten to her and she’s cracked. Or maybe almost dying after being attacked before the book began did it. All she knows for sure is that weird things are happening and there is no logical explanation for them.

When she finally accepts the fact that she is a shapeshifter, something she never knew existed outside of film and book, she is faced with having to either live up to the oaths she took as a cop, oaths she has held pretty much sacrosanct for almost ten years, or stepping outside the bounds of those oaths to protect not only the “normals” but her own people as well.

It’s not a decision she makes easily nor is it one she doesn’t have second, third and one-hundredth doubts about. If she holds to the oaths she took as a cop, oaths that are a very real part of who she is, she knows her actions can and probably will lead to the discovery of shapeshifters. That discovery, she knows, would be very bad on so many different levels. There was the risk of public panic, panic that could make the witch hunts of old look tame. Then there were those with little regard for anything other than their own financial gain who would try to use the shapeshifters for who knew what, none of it good. Add to that the fear of what the government might do. . . and she is having to make decisions that don’t sit easily.

Over the course of the next three books and one novella, Mac learns more about her heritage and begins the journey of mending fences with her mother. By the time we get to Nocturnal Challenge (Nocturnal Lives Book 4), she has come to a balance — sometimes precarious — between who she was and who she is now. She is still a cop but she is a shifter and that means she sometimes has to apply shifter law instead of the law on the books. But it all comes down to protecting the innocent, no matter who they are. Of course, now she is having to wrap her mind around the fact that she has to make a decision about what course to follow where her fellow shapeshifters are concerned. Does she pledge to the ruling council, even if she doesn’t agree with what they are doing, or does she follow her conscience and help find a way to ease her new people out of the shadows before their existence is revealed through modern technology? Add in government entanglements and personal desires and a younger sister who is more headstrong than wise, and her life is nothing but interesting.

And wouldn’t she give almost anything for a run-of-the-mill murder case? Things were much simpler when she thought she knew all the rules.

Ashlyn Shaw, the lead character from Honor and Duty (3 Book Series) presents a different set of challenges. Her world and those she care for betrayed her. At least that’s what she believes when Vengeance from Ashes (Honor and Duty Book 1) opens. She has spent two years at a military penal colony. Those of her squad who had not been killed on their last mission had been court martialed and convicted along with her. Isolated from family and friends, betrayed by her government and the Corps she loved, she has had two years to grow bitter and plot her vengeance. All she has to do is survive her time at the penal colony.

Except her world is turned upside down again and she is brought back to her home planet. Things have changed in the last two years. Those responsible for what happened to her are no longer in control. At least that is what she’s told. But does she dare trust them? She had made that mistake once and she was damned if she would do so again.

When the capital is attacked, instinct and duty take over. They are strong enough to keep her from deserting and going after those she holds responsible for what happens. Not that she gives up those plans. No, she will do what is necessary to keep those few who supported her safe and then she would go hunting. She didn’t care if it meant a return to the penal colony or even her death. She would avenge those who had died because of their betrayal. Maybe then she would be able to sleep at night.

Ash is, to be honest, broken in a lot of ways. Duty, ingrained in her from birth, keeps her from doing what she wants. But she keeps telling herself she will make sure her comrades are avenged, no matter what the personal cost. Even as she begins to trust again, that need is still there. It breaks through from time to time, causing her to take action she would never have done before being brought up on charges. However, over the course of the next three books, she slowly heals emotionally. Part of it is because her champions are smart enough to surround her with those she does trust. Part is because she sees who things have changed. It doesn’t mean she believes such a betrayal can’t happen again. Politics can cause almost anything to happen. But she won’t be so naive as to not take steps to protect herself and those under her command if her instincts start shouting about something not being right.

It’s not an instant emotional or mental healing. The doubts flare up, sometimes at the worst possible moment. She doesn’t always recognize them — at least not at the moment.

I hope I get all that across, for both Mac and Ashlyn. In my mind, that growth, and the internal struggles the growth causes, help make them more interesting characters. Hopefully, my readers agree.

You can find both series, as well as my other work, on Amazon.

Time to get to work

I think that’s the question most writers have asked themselves at one time or another. It usually isn’t because we have no ideas but because we have too many. We might be in the middle of writing one book when the idea for another suddenly pops into our head. We might have finished one book and be ready to start another, only to have a chorus of plots and characters all singing — or screaming and yelling — for our attention. It doesn’t matter what the schedule is, all too often there is the pull of another story that wants to be written.

I find myself in that position right now. It’s not new. Those of you who follow this blog, or who read Mad Genius Club, know that very same thing happened during the course of writing Honor from Ashes (Honor and Duty Book 3). I had to stop for a couple of weeks and pound out Slay Bells Ring because the book simply wouldn’t be quiet long enough for me to finish Honor. Now I am trying to write Dagger of Elanna, the follow-up to Sword of Arelion (Sword of the Gods Book 1). I know the basic plot. I know the twists and turns it needs to take. I have characters I love — and who I love to torture (hey, I’m a writer. It’s what I do.). Instead of being able to focus on swords and a bit of sorcery, I have spaceships and the dead rising, but not as zombies or vampires, a local witch and more than one mystery to solve. And no, that’s not all one book — thankfully.

I have Skeletons in the Closet wanting to be finished. It wouldn’t take much but it is a voice and head-space I’m not ready to get into right now. The main reason is because the voice is so different from everything else that I wouldn’t be able to work on any other project at the same time. So I am trying to tell Lexie and company to give me another six weeks and then I’ll give them my undivided attention.

I also have the new title in the Honor and Duty series — no, not Victory from Ashes, the next in the series. This is the standalone short story or novella I’ve discussed writing as a reward for all of you who stuck with me during last week’s Amazon snafu. While I love the series and characters, I wasn’t prepared for the number of ideas that have been coming to me as possibilities. I need a little time to figure out which one — or ones — will work best in helping shape the characters.

Then there is Mackenzie Santos and her friends. Mac is standing in my mind, tapping one booted foot, telling me it is time to write her next book. After all, I’ve put out two novels since Nocturnal Challenge (Nocturnal Lives Book 4). She’s been patient. Shouldn’t I reward her for that?

Okay, she isn’t being quite that nice about it. She is rather demanding, in fact. And oh the look she gives me when I remind her that I hadn’t planned on writing Slay Bells, so it doesn’t count.

In other words, this is another typical Monday morning in this writer’s life. What is really going to happen is I get to play catch up today. I need to do a follow-up email to my contact at Amazon, letting her know that the problems continued to exist for some of you through the weekend. Then I need to finish putting together print files for several of my books already out in e-book format. Then I need to do some yard work and clean house. Oh, somewhere in there, I must find more coffee and food. If I forget the latter, no biggie but nothing will get done without the former.

Then and only then will I be able to sit down and write. Yes, it will be Dagger of Elanna. But I am also plotting out Victory from Ashes as well as the untitled short story/novella in that same universe. Once that is done, I will finish Skeletons (which shouldn’t take more than another week or so). Then it will be the next Mac Santos book.

And who said writing wasn’t a real job?

A character speaks

 

I know I’ve been more absent than usual from the blog of late. I’ve written about some of the reason but most of it falls under the headings of “Real Life Kicks Author’s Ass” and “Uncooperative Main Character”. Both are finally starting to get under control (knocks on wood) and makes a note to go hunt a four leafed clover. As it stands now, I will be uploading Nocturnal Challenge to Amazon later today. That means either tonight or tomorrow it should be available for pre-orders. Publication date will be December 7th.

I’m not kidding when I say I’ve been suffering from “uncooperative main character”. Mackenzie Santos has been anything but cooperative in this book. Oh, it isn’t that the plot hasn’t been there. It has been, with a couple of twists I hadn’t anticipated. It isn’t even that the “voice” hasn’t been there. Mac’s voice is very strong and easy for me to get back into. Now, for some reason, this time she wanted the book to shift from 3rd person to 1st and fought me every step of the way.

For awhile, I did consider switching the POV. The problem is, the other books were written in 3rd preson and I didn’t want to switch things mid-stream. So what is probably going to have to happen is a short story or novella in the universe giving Mac her full voice. The only other alternative is a choice between changing the way the series moves forward or going back and redoing the previous books in 1st person and, believe me, I do NOT want to rewrite the series. For one, I’ve already written it. For another, unlike some traditionally published authors of late, I don’t believe I have the right to rip-off my readers by taking a story I’ve already published and simply change the names of the characters or give them the same story but from the other main character’s point of view.

So, somewhere along the line of finishing up Honor from Ashes, the next book in the Honor and Duty series, and then Dagger of Elanna, book two in Sword of the Gods, I have a short story or novella to write. My only fear is that doing so will encourage my other characters to demand the same sort of treatment.

Help me. Save me from headstrong characters who don’t accept the fact they aren’t real people.  😉

Seriously, there are times when, as an author, we have to listen to our characters. They aren’t real. We know that (really, we do). But they do represent our subconscious and it often knows more about what we need to do with our writing than our conscious mind does. In this case, I have a feeling the short story/novella will be the bridge between Challenge and what will probably be the last book in the series. I don’t think it will be the last time we see Mac and company but, if we do, it will be in another set of books from another POV in all likelihood. Again, I’m not sure.

I think my uncertainty comes from the fact I’ve read too many series where the author didn’t stop when she should have. I don’t want to do that with Mac and friends. The current story arc will be concluded in the book that comes out following Challenge. There is the possibility of more after this arc. But we’ll see.

In the meantime, there are books to write, edit and life to be lived.

FYI, I have a post up at Mad Genius Club today discussing e-book pricing and its impact on the Big Five.

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