Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Tutorial Tuesday – Put Up Your Dukes 1

                Let’s talk violence.  The fight scene can be as difficult as writing sex, because it causes a pause in the storyline.  While your characters are pounding on or shooting at one another, the tale is at a standstill until the fight comes to an end and the dust settles.  So how do we carry off a fight scene without losing your readers?  Over the next few weeks we’ll look at violence in writing and how to make it work.

Is This Violence Necessary?

Most of the time, no.   Gratuitous violence abounds in movies, books, and television for the simple reason writers rely on it sometimes too heavily to spice things up and keep tension high.  Sure, the audience might stick around to see who wins the battle, but are they truly engaged?  You need to give them more than just cool karate moves or flashy laser guns.  The violence has to have meaning. 

Give Me a Reason to Fight

Let’s talk motivation first and foremost.  Your characters have to have good reason to get physical.  Not just any cause will do either; there has to be something serious at stake here.  Your protagonist must be ready to let blood be spilled because he cares deeply about something whether it’s the life of his child, the honor of his beloved, or the survival of his country.  He must feel the violence is absolutely necessary.  And for your readers to feel that way too, they must be invested in that character.  Only then can they be carried along in the fight scene, rooting for your hero (or heroine) to win.

Timing is Everything

This brings up another point:  time your violent scene right.  Opening the story with guns blazing might provide initial excitement, but not much.  Why?  Because your readers don’t know your characters yet.  They don’t know who to cheer for or why they should be cheering for anyone in particular.   They haven’t had an opportunity to invest in your protagonist.  So the scene falls flat despite the flurry of frenetic action.

Let’s take a look at a couple of my books.  Violence doesn’t show up in Alien Embrace until it’s less than 30 pages from the end when General Croft gets his hands on Amelia Ryan.  By that time, we know how punitive Earth authorities are to women suspected of lewd acts.  In another example, we don’t see the knives come out in Alien Rule until the next-to-the-last chapter.  By this time the readers are sympathetic to the protagonists and want to see them win against their enemies. 

Hold off on the fisticuffs and shootouts.  Let your readers have a chance to develop a relationship with your characters, to care about them.  Your audience needs to discover what values your characters hold.  Only when the protagonists have borne severe insult to those values can they safely enter into the arena to do justifiable battle and thus avoid the label ‘gratuitous violence’.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Six Sentence Sunday - Alien Conquest (Clans of Kalquor 3)

    Cassidy submitted to Tranis’ bite on her inner thigh without a whimper.  She wasn’t sure why he thought it necessary to intoxicate her.  She’d offered no resistance when he’d started kissing and caressing.
    As euphoria coursed through her veins, she wasn’t sorry he’d done it.  The intoxicant erased her guilt for the lust her sinful body subjected her to.  Now she wouldn’t mind that Tranis’ touch made her wet and aching for his magnificent body. 

Available from New Concepts Publishing, Amazon for Kindle, and Barnes & Noble for Nook

Saturday, January 28, 2012

The Writing of Alien Slave (Clans of Kalquor 5)

When I think of all the inspirations that went into Alien Slave, my head fairly whirls.  There were so many, it’s hard to sort them all out.  I’ll keep it simple and tell you about the four biggest ideas that contributed to the latest installment of the Clans of Kalquor.

Let me first explain that because something inspires me, it doesn’t mean that specific element will end up in the story.  My first inspiration, the vision of an alien sex slave auction, did not make it into Alien Slave.  But it led to the idea of the Dantovonian brothels I’ve mentioned in previous books and a sex worker named Dani Watson.  When it came down to it, it was her experience as someone who performs intimate acts for money that got the story rolling.  How an Earther coming from a repressive society could have ended up a sex slave – a willing sex slave – made for a very different heroine from previous ones in the series.  Her impulsive decision to sign on as a Dantovonian brothel worker was very indicative of Dani’s emerging impetuous nature.

This led to Inspiration #2:  the poor little rich girl whose reckless behavior constantly lands her in trouble.  Dani is a complicated, sometimes unsympathetic heroine.  Often I found myself wanting to shake her.  She’s self-absorbed and acts before she thinks things through.  She can be downright unlikeable at times.  But there’s a wounded quality that also made me want to give her a hug and tell her things aren’t as bad as they appear.  That she can find people out there to love and trust with all her heart, without fear they’ll abandon her. 

Speaking of damaged characters, Imdiko Krijero was my third inspiration.  I’ve written about the uber-confident clans of Rajhir, Clajak, and Tranis.  That trend changed with Bacoj’s clan in Alien Salvation.  This young clan was still growing into their poise, which was fascinating for me to chart.  After that, I was ready to explore a Kalquorian who had real issues.  So now we have Krijero, an Imdiko as raw and hurting as Dani.  A stunning past rejection has combined with physical and social awkwardness to make him fear getting close to others.  He is not confident in the relationship department, though he is a fully mature man with intelligence, good looks, position, and rank.  Even the many assurances from his sympathetic clanmates cannot convince Krijero he isn’t lacking.

The final inspiration I’ve blogged about before.  My husband is absolutely addicted to survival shows, so I’m often bombarded with images of people eating bugs, drinking their own urine, and starting fires by rubbing two sticks together.  Putting my characters in a primitive survival situation and having them chased by mortal enemies was the last ingredient to be added to Alien Slave. 

It all came together in a way that I’m very happy with.  Stubborn, selfish Dani is ready to come face to face with three men who refuse to coddle her demons; men who won’t give her all she wants but will give her what she needs.  Krijero is about to get schooled in that just because someone might reject him, it doesn’t mean he’s unworthy.  Dramok Gelan and Nobek Wynhod have their hands full dealing with these two, and they’ll do it while fighting desperately to stay alive.

Coming from New Concepts Publishing February 17

Friday, January 27, 2012

First Five Friday - Alien Rule (Clans of Kalquor 2)

    Jessica and Michaela peeked between the curtains blocking the enclosed back area from the stage.  The Coming of Age Festival was in full swing, and the crowds were huge.  With all the merrymaking, a casual observer would never know a blockade of warships surrounded the planet.
    The stage was across from the object that the city was built around.  The center of Plasius’ unnamed capital was a great stone altar that had been carved so long ago no one knew who its maker had been. 

Available from New Concepts Publishing, Amazon for Kindle, and Barnes & Noble for Nook.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Thursday Update - What’s Up and What’s Coming

So here’s the latest and greatest on what’s happening in Tracyland:

Alien Salvation:  Clans of Kalquor 4 is now available from New Concepts Publishing, Fictionwise, Amazon for Kindle, and Barnes & Noble for Nook.

Netherworld:  Drop Dead Sexy:  The first of this series is up at New Concepts Publishing, coming to other distributors around the beginning of March.

Alien Slave:  Clans of Kalquor 5 is tentatively scheduled for release from New Concepts Publishing  February 17.

Netherworld II:  Blood Potion No. 9:  Finished and under consideration by my publisher.

Alien Interludes:  I have just finished the first drafts of this collection of short stories and novellas.  It includes eight new stories about the clans we already love, plus one introducing the heroine of the upcoming Alien Redemption.

The Font:  This first draft is on the verge of completion.

Netherworld III:  Once Bitten, Twice Dead:  Outline completed, starting first draft soon. 

Alien Redemption:  Clans of Kalquor 6 – we’re almost finished creating Imdiko Conyod.  If everyone wishes to help with creating the rest of the clan, new polls will be appearing every week (instead of every two).  More details to follow soon.

The Phucket List:  Personal problems have cropped up for my co-writer, keeping this one on the back burner for now.  Rest assured it will be worth the wait.

Television pilot:  You won’t catch the name ‘Tracy St. John’ on the credits since the industry refuses to take erotic writers seriously.  Having me attached to this project could do it more harm than good.  But I did have a hand in it and if it goes into production I will get my share of the pie, so here’s the scoop.  A television producer friend of mine created a comedy series pilot about a young woman, her two female roommates, and her offbeat family.  Our intent was to make it sexy, quirky, and fun.  The whole pilot has been shot, and it’s in editing now.  To gain support, it will be posted in parts on YouTube in the future.  I will keep you updated as this project moves along.

That’s it (and more than enough) for now!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

WIP Wednesday - The Font

    A brief lull in the hushed conversations of the gathered vampires alerted Elisha, and he looked once more towards where the self-described king sat.  A human woman had come into the room to stand at Heriolf’s side.
    Elisha knew her name to be Naya Woods.  Out of Heriolf’s hearing, many referred to her as the Font, a suggestion of powerful blood that had been borne out by a captured member of the king’s inner circle.  Other than these things, nothing of note was known about her.
    Taken piece by piece, she was not a beauty.  Her pale blond hair, reaching to her waist, was too flyaway and untamed.  Her eyes, as green as the ubiquitous pine needles of Georgia, were too large and too round to balance her tiny chin.  Her nose was long and straight, and her lips, while well-formed, were thin slashes of pink.  Her body was so willowy as to make her appear taller than she actually was, especially in the sweeping gown she wore tonight, its green skirt that matched her eyes reaching the marble floor.  There was an aloof restraint in her demeanor that suggested she was above the pettiness of the world around her, but gazing at her for only a few seconds told the observer this regal bearing was but a mask she wore.  Beneath it, there was a nervous fluttering of fingers, a jerkiness of the darting eyes that took in everything, and a tension in her stance that spoke of a willingness to take flight.  She was at her heart a wild thing, as untamed as the floating froth of hair that moved with its own life around her torso.
    In parts, Naya was not even pretty.  But put together, she was striking, a pale will o’ the wisp that pleased the eye even as it confounded it.  That such a dainty ethereal being gave Heriolf his power over all other vampires made her even more compelling.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Tutorial Tuesday – Love is a Battlefield

When it comes to writing a love story, whether it be in erotica or any other genre, your best bet is to turn it into a war.  Without a struggle of some sort, love in your novel can be as bland as a rice cake.

It doesn’t have to be a monumental battle, with the couple screaming at each other or striving against Romeo-and-Juliet sized obstacles.  Little ongoing skirmishes will suffice.  After all, even the most well-adjusted relationships have issues.  Case in point:  my in-laws are coming up on their 60th wedding anniversary, and you’ve never seen a pair more devoted to each others’ wellbeing.  That doesn’t stop my father-in-law from teasing my mother-in-law about her enjoyment of the casino a mile down the road, even though he knows she really, REALLY hates his comments about her being easily lured to the nickel slots.   

For instance, one day I asked my Native American mother-in-law, “What does your Mohawk name mean?”

Before she could respond, my father-in-law yelled out (with great delight), “Slot machine!”

And the fight started.  Two days later, there was another one over him calling the casino, ‘Mom’s office’.  No, she doesn’t have a gambling problem at all, but Dad simply can’t deny himself the opportunity of getting under her skin.  This is their little war, the salt and pepper of an otherwise placid and happy dish of existence.

 Drawing the Lines of Battle

To turn your love story into a war, the combatants must have something to be passionately at odds about.  It could be an ideal.  In my novel Alien Embrace, the extraterrestrial Kalquorian clan is determined to seduce Earther Amelia Ryan initially because their race is in danger of extinction.  She in turn is determined to not be seduced because she has been convinced sex, especially sex with aliens, is a sin.  The resulting struggle is only complicated, not resolved, when the three alien men and Amelia fall in love with each other.

Your lovers can be equally adverse to each other because of character flaws.  In my second novel Alien Rule, Jessica McInness initially despises Kalquorians Clajak and Egilka for their self-absorbed and bigoted attitudes.  Even the more palatable Bevau is deemed an occasional bully.  For the aliens’ part, they find Jessica just as irritating because of her easily set-off temper and the insults she hurls at them.  

Then you could have a situation that embroils your lovers in a seemingly no-win situation.  Once Jessica and Clajak’s clan gets past their personal disagreements to find their hearts’ desire with each other, they still have to face objections to their union from their respective planets.  The battleground of their would-be love threatens to set off an actual war.

The Combatants:  Do We Care About Them?

To make the war work and to make your readers suspend disbelief long enough to get swallowed by the story, your characters have to be people they care about.  But how do you do that?

First of all, let your characters acknowledge they’re at war.  Rajhir and his clan in Alien Embrace know they have to get Amelia’s cooperation, even if it means coercion.  Amelia fights her growing passion for the clan in her determination to do what she feels is morally right.  In Alien Rule, Jessica calls Clajak’s clan every name in the book and does her best to avoid them.  In turn, the three men take it upon themselves to put her in her place.  When they finally stop fighting each other, they acknowledge the battles they face to stay together.

Secondly, your characters have to feel strongly about the situation they find themselves in.  Ambivalence about the war raging around them will not captivate your readers.  Your characters must have everything invested in winning the fight, even to the point where they will risk that which means the most to them.

Finally, your characters must be fully realized and sharply defined.  They can’t be a general representation of their class, gender, and culture.  These must be individuals who don’t fall into easy categories or stereotypes.

So next time you sit down at your computer, think about the causes your characters believe in, understand what motivates them to fight, and find them weapons to wield.  Then have them declare full-on war.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Six Sentence Sunday - Alien Rule (Clans of Kalquor 2)

Jessica recognized many of the willowy bronze-skinned Plasians.  They were of the elite class, advisors to Saucin Israla.  Israla herself sat front and center with four Earther males surrounding her.  The Plasian leader was already nude, her perfectly proportioned body betraying none of her advanced years.  None of her companions was over the age of twenty.  Israla’s delight in young, virginal men was legendary.

Available from New Concepts Publishing, Amazon for Kindle, and Barnes & Noble for Nook

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Create a Kalquorian: New Poll is Up

It's that time again, and we're now doing the next-to-the-last poll to create our Imdiko.  It's up to you to choose Conyod's childhood event that changed his life.  Ready ... set ... vote!

Results from last poll:  You decided Conyod's greatest accomplishment was being chosen to be a part of the Earther Matara psychological team.  Out of over two hundred applicants he was top choice.  Good work, all.