PIKE here: This post will be about the creative process that leads to how I create a book. Instead of an old title, it will focus on Witch World II. In my next post I’ll return to my old books.
However, eventually I’ll run out of old books to talk about and I’d like to return to the idea of trying to make this site — and my future website — a place where we discuss EVERYONE’s books. Where people can post two chapters and an outline and ALL of us can read it and give our input, not just me. The focus cannot always be on me — that will get boring. I want this site to be dynamic, capable of constantly attracting new people.
Besides, it’s dangerous for me to give my input on other people’s books. Most of the books I’m sent to read are not good enough to pass on to an agent, never mind be published. It doesn’t matter how much people say they want a blunt assessment — they end up hating me for telling them the truth. For that reason, I’d rather have the whole Facebook board point out the book’s flaws, and maybe, just maybe, the would-be authors will fix the flaws.
Speaking of the creative process. Thanksgiving night, when I drove back late from L.A., I thought I had a pretty good idea of how Witch World II would go. Turns out I knew nothing. I figure out my plots in basically four ways: I sit at the computer and throw out ideas; I brainstorm with my girlfriend; I take a long walk and think about the book; or I take a long drive. I got The Sixth Door on one long drive, an adult book that is coming.
Thursday night, Friday morning, while driving back to Santa Barbara, the bulk of Witch World II came to me like a slow rolling movie. The book I was talking about earlier — The Players — it no longer exists. It’s become a major part of Witch World II. It should have been obvious when I got The Players that it was part of the Witch World saga but I didn’t see it. Now the original Witch World feel like one long cool prologue to the REAL story.
Witch World II has Jessie, my hero, trapped in an arena like situation, where she’s fighting for her life. But it’s unlike The Hunger Games — it’s an arena unlike anything that has been done before. It is so damn intense! The first draft of the book is due April 15th and that scares me because the story is now VERY complex, very rich. I hope I’m able to pull it off — I think I can.
The rush I got when the story came to me was better than any drug. I had so much energy, I could have driven to Canada. The creative process is interesting that way. When you get “Touched” it’s an incredible experience. Then you know the book always had a life of its own — that it was already out there waiting to be discovered.
To make Witch World II work, I might have to do something I’ve never done before — combine Jessie’s first person narrative with another character’s narrative, either first person or third person. This character, Blake, he was at the heart of The Players — the entire book was told through his eyes. He’s actually based on someone I met, or rather, watched in operation.
Because Alcon is making the Alosha movie, they usually invite my me and my girlfriend down to L.A. to see the opening of their films at Grauman’s Chinese Theater. These are red carpet affairs and lots of stars come out to see the new films. They’re fun, especially if the movie is good.
Anyway, the parking is an interesting problem. Grauman’s was built ages ago and doesn’t have it’s own parking lot, at least not anymore. I park in the mall next door to the theater. But a lot of people valet, and their car may end up in the mall or some other place, it’s hard to say.
I’d rather not go into too much detail how I met Blake but let’s just say that MY Blake — the one in my book — works parking cars for all the rich Hollywood types, and as a result he knows exactly how many jewels the ladies are wearing for the red carpet and he also has access to their car keys. Plus he knows where their cars are parked.
To make a long opening chapter short, Blake is a jewel thief who preys on specific couples — those who wear tons of jewelry, and those who stay late at the “Post-Movie-Party.” These parties are held a hotel within walking distance of the theater. Imagine how this situation is perfect for a jewel thief. By parking people’s cars, seeing early in the evening what they’re wearing, Blake is able to identify a dozen candidates to steal from.
Why is it important his candidates stay late? Blake has a real job — he’s a valet. But as the night wears on, most of the valets go home. At some point Blake clocks out. But he doesn’t leave. Instead, using the car keys available to all the valets, he hides in the trunk of a car of a person — specifically a women — who is wearing tons of jewelry, and who is probably exhausted — because she has stayed so late at the party — and who is more often than not drunk. Of course, this woman is not alone — she’s with her husband or a boyfriend. But it’s the woman who interests Blake. It’s the woman who wears the jewels.
You can probably guess what happens next. When the couple finally pick up their car, Blake rides in the trunk back to their house. You can see how the people make perfect victims. When they park in their garage, they have no idea Blake’s in their trunk. They’re tired, they’ve been drinking. What are the chances the woman will stop to store her jewelry in a home safe? Close to zero. Chances are she’ll just pull them off and leave them on top of a counter somewhere, in the bathroom or the bedroom, and then plop into bed.
That’s when Blake leaves the trunk and sneaks into their house and steals the jewels.
This is — or was — the opening chapter of The Players. Now it will probably be the opening chapter of Witch World II, I haven’t decided for sure. I may start with Jessie’s point of view in another situation.
The point of this exercise is to show how a real life situation inspired a first chapter for a novel. A chapter that with one long exciting sequence tells you more about a character than a dozen normal chapters could. By the end of this chapter you KNOW Blake. You know he grew up on the streets. That he has had to struggle to feed himself. That he has “Street Smarts.” That he’s a survivor. That he’s perfect partner to be thrown into a deadly arena — with Jessie — and survive.
I won’t tell you if Blake manages to steal his victim’s jewels that night or not. I don’t want to spoil the fun. But I will say that before the night is over he is “Picked Up” by some mysterious force and ends up in a strange metal box-like room with Jessie and four other young people from all parts of the world.
Is Blake a witch? I don’t know, I don’t think so. If he is one he’s certainly not conscious of the fact. Jessie is probably the only witch in the group, but I don’t know and it doesn’t matter, not at this point. I know where they’re going, I know what theyre going to have to face. That’s enough for me to write the bulk of the book.
Another question is — is all this happening in the Real World or in Witch World? Once again I’m not sure and it doesn’t matter this early in the story.
I never planned to have The Players meet Witch World II. I never planned for Chaneen’s story to meet Lauren Wagner’s story in The Season of Passage. It just happens sometimes and when it happens you realize that either your subconscious or your muse or your guardian angel or the akashic records were planning it all along. Now I can’t imagine how Witch World II could have worked without Blake and his gutsy background. Jessie needs Blake to help fight what she’s facing in Witch World II. It’s a hell of a lot worse than the Lapras from the first book.
To enjoy Witch World II you’ll have to read Witch World. So go buy a copy this weekend! And please send it to me to sign. This morning it was exciting to check my email and discover tons of books have already arrived at the UPS Store. I didn’t know they would email me every time a package arrived. Remember to enclose U.S. Postage SASE! Have I mentioned that before? I know, a thousand times, but you would be amazed the mail I get from people asking if they need to send one. Also, send only two old books for every new copy of Witch World. I have said this before, a few times, but not everyone is getting the message.
It’s OK, myself — I’m lousy at following directions.
Please post a review of Witch World! I have mentioned this before as well. Not just here on Facebook, although they are fun for me to read, but on Amazon — if you can — and Goodreads. For 20 years I’ve never even looked at a review. I’m sure you can understand why. But they do help sell books and I’m ultimately responsible for the success or failure of the Witch World saga.
How a series starts often determines how long it will last. Myself, I prefer to rely on word of mouth to sell books. I have my whole career. But in today’s world the Internet controls the success of everything — movies, CDs, books, TV shows. The feedback is fast these days. We’ve all seen how a 200 million dollar movie can vanish overnight if the opening weekend is weak. Take Battleship for example. Poor reviews, lousy Internet buzz — it went from showing in every theater in the country in the first week to a handful of theaters in the second week.
Unfortunately, now it’s the same with books. When I sold Slumber Party and Weekend, the books sat on the shelves for months. I had plenty of time to gather positive word of mouth. It was an easier time to break into the business. I look back on those days fondly. There were also hundreds of independent book distributors. If a quarter of them liked you — you could become a success writer.
Now all the small time distributors are gone. They have all been bought out. Now the majority of books are sold to a handful of accounts. Now a book has to start selling the first month it appears on the shelves. That’s why beginning writers — and old hacks like myself — are having to go on the Internet and promote their books. I’m just lucky I have this site on Facebook.
Oh, that reminds me. I’ve never seen a site like this one before. I can’t believe how civil everyone is to each other. You know how it is on other sites. Half the people regularly post notes that insult the other half. You must have noticed that NO ONE on this site tries to hurt other people. It’s kind of a miracle. We have been lucky so far.
However, if we do start accepting book proposals, and reviewing them online, I expect a few people will get their feelings hurt and lash out. I think it’s worth the risk. If we can help even one person get published then this site will have served its purpose. Remember how Sati said if even one person gets enlightened then everyone on the planet is changed. I believe that.
I’ll continue posting about my older books soon.
I’ve got to go sign copies of Witch World!