Behind the Character: Sands

Who is he?

No joke, this guy was an accident I wrote in Unexpected Prize. He appeared during the early drafts when the Rastos Captain was trying to sell “The Cerebral” to the Chancellor. I was in a jam trying to figure out how to smoothly introduce Sci – the Cerebral into the story.  It may be a good time to confess I didn’t outline very well for Unexpected Prize.

Sci was going to be my hero in the debut novel Unexpected Hostage. So I needed to make sure he was rememberable. Something that readers would think about after they finished reading. I needed to make them curious about a man that didn’t have one word of dialog. Not sure if I hit the mark on that, but it is, what it is.

During the first draft of Unexpected Prize, Sci was in a cage – awake and ended up using Cara to free himself. After re-reading that scene over and over…the plot holes were endless so I decided he needed to be unconscious. The new problem being, if he was so powerful…how would anyone or anything subdue him?

My next thought:  I’ll knock him out.

That “person who knocked him out” became Sands the cyborg with metal lines in his jaw and a black leather jacket.

Sands wasn’t supposed to be anybody. At least that was the plan back in 2017 when I was working on Unexpected Prize. He was supposed to be a name forgotten and die quietly within the night during the following book. Kind of like a “red shirt” character…

Once I began Unexpected Hostage he was no longer needed to keep Sci unconscious. That responsibility had transfered to Ansel the Numan. But Sands refused to fall into the background and be forgotten.

I kept writing him into scene and scene, the jerk would make some snarky remark to someone, show no loyalty, and yet have a great deal of information about everything. At one point he even exposed Sasha’s secrets half heartedly blackmailing her. Sands became the simmering chaos to bring the characters to life. Sands developed into a perfect static character that had a unique physical look, a

Sands became the simmering chaos to bring the characters to life. He developed into a perfect static character that had a unique physical look, a distance brooding personality and unexplored skills.

To sum it up, he became one of my favorite characters.

While working on the rough drafts and outlines of two other books in the series, I learned Sands backstory – specifically how he became a cyborg. I discovered who he was before the change and why he acts the way he does. Knowing what I know, I just want to wrap my arms around him and try to hug the flesh and metal to remind him that he never lost himself. He just lost his way.

Seriously, this male deserves a happily ever after.

And just in case you noticed…. I don’t know when it happened but, Sands lost his leather jacket at some point during the Donnie (the cannibal space scavenger) attack.

 

Behind the Book: Unexpected Hostage

How it started:

This book was prompted by a friend of mine. One day I asked him, “What do you think the world would be like if you could hear everyone thoughts and they could hear yours?”

I knew my friend had a strong personality, but I never saw him react so vehemently. He even slammed his hand down at the table when he said, “No one is allowed to know my thoughts. Uh-uh. That’s just wrong. Those are my private thoughts – not for anyone else.”

Of course, I was like what kind of stuff is he thinking about?

So I asked. He said, “Let’s just say I wouldn’t have any friends if they could hear my thoughts.”

So… I laughed in his face.

In my story Unexpected Hostage, Sci is a telepathic and telekinetic being from a planet named Cerebral – I probably should have thought of a better name but it seemed to fit perfectly.

Sci wakes up in Chapter One confused and his memory is a little foggy at first. In a matter of minutes, he learned he was knocked unconscious by a cyborg named Sands while on a Rastos Pirate ship. The captain of the pirate ship wanted him off as soon as possible and sold him to an Angny Gladiator named Chancellor.

The Chancellor sold him back to the Federation as a Luri – a label given to kidnapped or misplaced beings. The Federation is bound to return Luri’s to their homeworld but when they find out he’s a Cerebral they act like my friend and freak out by inhibiting his telepathic and telekinetic abilities. As you can imagine, he’s not very happy about this.

All this backstory can be found in Unexpected Prize.

What I learned:

I went through at least 10 different versions of this story. It took three beta readers, and a developmental editor to get me to describe the relationships of all the crew members and give the romance a strong foundation.

In my previous book Unexpected Prize I read a few reviews that said it wasn’t a love story and I took that to heart and made sure to do better this time.

I also read a review that said the heroine needed some backbone – so again in Unexpected Hostage, I made sure the heroine, Sasha, could handle herself and kick ass. I’ll leave that to you to see if I succeeded.

After all those changes I finalized my manuscript and sent it to my line editor and she had a few suggestions on my epilogue. So I had to re-write that too. To be honest, I added a new ending.

The previous ending will be added to Unexpected Master which is the story about Sci’s brother Chollar.

Okay, so at that point, I thought everything was great, perfect and I should publish. But then doubt started to kick in and I worried that something might be missing. So I looked through my contacts and remembered a friend of mine, Matt Rees who has the ability to critically analyze the crap out of anything.

With a quick “hey, I need your brain…” he consented to read it. Two weeks later this was our texts.

50D4E9E1-8BC9-4B77-B15A-1663305CB064

What Matt did next was start asking questions about the series and by the end of that conversation, my entire series plot was changed and updated. Since then he’s been working with me on my next book Unexpected Loss. He’s asked for a ship map, star charts, backstory, races, diseases and SO much more than I planned to write – thankfully it’s only made things better.

I’ve put all these extra things in Sci’s Archives, and you can thank Matt Rees for them. You can find the archives by clicking on Books and then choosing the Unexpected Series.

Behind the Book: Unexpected Prize

How it started:

A good friend of mine sent me her WIP (Work In Progress). She was initially looking for feedback, then asked if I would read her manuscript all the way through as if I was a reader, not a critique partner.

Simple enough.

It took me longer to read the story than it should have. That was, in part because, the book was in a format I don’t ordinarily read, so it was difficult to wade through.

About two-thirds of the way through (a shifter-romance story) I was reading the dialog between the hero and heroine that sparked my imagination to create an alternate universe with two new characters and a verbal battle between them. *To be clear my story looks and reads nothing like my friends.

But, in essence that was it.

One small dialog prompt, and I had a single scene. And through a series of months and revisions, Unexpected Prize was born.

Interestingly, that story underwent a plethora of changes…
The characters for Unexpected Prize evolved as I became acquainted with their personalities. For example, Jarr-o’s father was killed early on in the book in the first two versions.

Garr-n, Jarr-o’s sister, had also changed dramatically. At first she was extraordinarily passive and weak. As the story developed more and more, I realized there was no way she could be a vulnerable character after all that she was put through.

Jarr-o, of course, was the star of that story, so it was difficult for me to upset him, and hurt him as I did. But I did it out of love….he needed to grow as a person.

What I learned:

1. Friends make great support buddies but horrible critique partners.

This is not a slight towards my friends who generously read my work. In fact, it’s the opposite. I value them especially when I get down on myself and my writing. But I have to also take into consideration that they are reading my story for pleasure. So for me to expect they will be able to accurately tell me if my ‘flow’ is off or I should have developed a particular scene better is ludicrous. They don’t have that kind of expertise nor would I expect them to.

2. Paying for a beta reader to go through and give in-depth analysis was worth the money.   Tip: Upwork.com

I will be honest; at the beginning of writing Unexpected Prize, I didn’t want to book swap with another author. I didn’t want to wait and hope that they had time in their schedule to give me a valued report. I had learned the valuable lesson that just because someone says they will do something does not mean they will – hence the motivation behind hiring my beta readers. At Upwork.com, I did a call out for beta readers to critique my book. I found two ladies that were awesome and worth the money, and I will be using them again for my next book.

3. Never look for cheep deals through a friend’s friend.

This lesson boils down to a recommendation for a book cover artist that ended up blowing WAY past the due date, and then creating something that I couldn’t work with. I was mad at myself more than the artist (who had a full-time job, family and working on my artwork on the side) and my friend. Also, this lesson turned me on to doing my own research and finding CrocoDesigns that made a brilliant book cover.

4. Social Media Marketing is never going to get easier.label-3177800_1280

I do all my social media, and it’s hard to think of something witty to say or do to engage my readers. Which is why my Instagram account is mainly character photos of people I find that I plan to add to my series.

5. Indie Authors will forever have a steep learning curve.

Here’s a secret…ready? I have written and published under a different pen name. I was such a newbie author I didn’t know the difference between a content editor and a line editor. I could go on for days listing the things I did wrong, but needless to say, I made mistakes. So many that I needed a new start with a new name and completely rebrand myself.

Not only that, I needed to write better, edit better, and get detailed feedback.
So this time, I made it a priority to research book launches, promotions, and giveaways. To know how important it was to build an author platform, ect.

My research and lesson have paid off. Unexpected Prize it did so well that I’ve been humbled and overwhelmed by the number of sales I’ve received compared to my past works. I’m not saying I’m a millionaire but to put it plainly I sold more books in the first week of my newest book launch than I did in three years with my other two books.