I welcome today my co-conspirator, Anne Barwell. Once again I have to thank her for letting me be a part of The Sleepless City series.
Writing an Ensemble Cast
Thanks, Elizabeth, for hosting me.
Although each book of The Sleepless City—the urban fantasy series which is a joint project between myself and Elizabeth Noble—focuses on one couple, the other characters play a big part in the storyline.
One of the things I love about writing series is juggling the balance between focusing on particular characters for one book, and advancing the storyline and giving others their part to play in it. Characters don’t just grow and live on the pages of the books, but lead their own lives in between. I think of books as a small glimpse into their lives, rather than the whole sum of it.
With each book so far being from different points of view, it is also the opportunity to see characters through the eyes of others. Book 1, Shades of Sepia, introduced the series through Simon and Ben, a vampire and human. Book 2, Electric Candle—by Elizabeth—continued the story from Forge and Blair’s perspective, who are two vampires. Book 3, Family and Reflection, gives some insight from Lucas and Declan, a werewolf and a vampire.
While exploring the growing relationships between the two point of view characters, an important part of this series is the friendship between all of them. In solving crimes and taking down bad guys, each of the characters plays a part, and they work together, each bringing to the table their own skill set and unique perspective. Those perspectives also give the opportunity to explore not just the characters, but the world itself from another angle. It’s one of the reasons I like the mix we have of vampires, werewolves, humans and—of course not forgetting—Mr. Boggs, the castle’s ghost.
Family and Reflection
Book 3 of The Sleepless City, Sequel to Electric Candle
For as long as Lucas Coate can remember, werewolves have been taught to mistrust vampires. Lucas is an exception—he has close friends who are vampires. The werewolf pack in Flint—and their leader, Jacob Coate—have made it clear that Lucas’s association with vampires is barely tolerated, and another transgression will be his last. When Lucas finds out about the plague of werewolf deaths in the area, he wants to help even though his own life may already be in danger.
Declan has been away from Flint for ten years, but he isn’t surprised to learn that the internal politics of the Supernatural Council haven’t changed for the better. When a series of burglaries hit close to home soon after he arrives, Declan—a vampire and professional thief—is their prime suspect, although for once, he isn’t responsible. With the council keeping secrets, no one is safe. Time is running out, and for Lucas and Declan, everything is about to change.
Declan turned the page of his book, read the first paragraph, then shook his head. He wasn’t sure why he’d bothered, as he couldn’t for the life of him remember what had happened on the previous page, let alone in the last few chapters. He closed the book with a thump, got up from the table, went over to the fridge, and opened it.
He wasn’t hungry, but if he had been, the mold-covered plate on one of the shelves would have put him off whatever else had taken his fancy. Someone really needed to have a word with Lucas about leaving his science experiments to breed. Declan lifted the plate somewhat cautiously and sniffed it, then wished he hadn’t. City coroner or not, this wasn’t… normal. Normal people cleaned out their leftovers before they got the chance to become strange new life forms.
Even if, in this case, his definition of normal was a werewolf.
But, despite his reaction, Declan couldn’t bring himself to throw the—whatever it was—away. To him it was disgusting, but to Lucas it might be some new discovery crucial to whatever he was currently working on. And Declan didn’t want to upset Lucas. In the short time they’d known each other, he’d become quite fond of Lucas, and enjoyed the time they spent together.
Declan sighed. He returned the offending thing to its previous resting place, ignoring the visions of reanimated zombie leftovers creeping up the stairs to attack him in the middle of the night, and instead got a wineglass out of the cupboard. He poured himself a decent-sized portion of his favorite red beverage and settled back down on the chair he’d recently vacated. As much as he enjoyed a good vintage wine, there were times when one had to quench one’s other thirsts. He sniffed the glass and savored the aroma before swallowing.
Hmm, not bad. It was amazing the standard of blood available to purchase through the right sources. It made it so much easier to feed than it used to be, and less messy too.
He heard the light step on the stairs and human heartbeat long before Ben reached the kitchen and stood awkwardly in the doorway.
“Hello, Ben,” Declan said. “Don’t worry, you’re not disturbing me.”
“If you’re sure?” Ben Leyton ran one hand through his thick dark hair. He looked tired. “I couldn’t sleep, so I thought I’d make a Milo and see if that helps.”
“I heard Simon having a nightmare earlier. He never did sleep well on anniversaries.” He’d known Simon Hawthorne a long time; Jonas Forge had introduced them shortly after Simon had been turned. Declan had also helped Simon through a dark part of his life, triggered by the events he suspected had prompted this particular nightmare, given the time of year. “I also don’t mind if you turn on the light.”
Although Declan didn’t need much light to see, especially with the full moon casting its glow into the room, Ben would appreciate more illumination.
“Yeah, well, they’re the worst times for most people, I guess.” Ben flicked on the light switch before walking across the kitchen. He filled the kettle and put it on to boil before reaching into the cupboard and bringing down a green can. “Do you want some? It’s a chocolate drink.”
“Thank you but no.” Declan indicated the glass in front of him.
The loud howl almost made him jump, and only years of practiced self-control stopped him. Even so, Declan’s hairs stood on end on the back of his neck, and the howl sent a shiver through him.
Lucas howled again. Frustration, anger, and loss all rolled into a sound that was pure wolf.
Declan knocked his glass over, spilling its contents. Without thinking, he moved at vampire speed, catching what was left of the blood in his palm and drinking deeply.
The glass fell to the floor, smashing into tiny pieces. He ignored it and finished the blood, then wiped the back of his hand across his mouth. A low growl escaped his lips. He knew his eyes were completely green. They tended to do that when his fangs extended.
When he looked up, Ben was staring at him, his eyes wide. “I’ll clean up the mess, shall I?” Ben said hurriedly, already heading for the broom.
“Don’t worry,” Declan said. “I’ll do it. Make your chocolate drink, mon ami. It’s my mess, so my responsibility, yes?”
Meet Anne Barwell
Anne Barwell lives in Wellington, New Zealand. She shares her home with two cats who are convinced that the house is run to suit them; this is an ongoing "discussion," and to date it appears as though the cats may be winning.
In 2008 she completed her conjoint BA in English Literature and Music/Bachelor of Teaching. She has worked as a music teacher, a primary school teacher, and now works in a library. She is a member of the Upper Hutt Science Fiction Club and plays violin for Hutt Valley Orchestra.
She is an avid reader across a wide range of genres and a watcher of far too many TV series and movies, although it can be argued that there is no such thing as "too many." These, of course, are best enjoyed with a decent cup of tea and further the continuing argument that the concept of "spare time" is really just a myth.
Anne’s books have twice received honorable mentions and twice reached the finals in the Rainbow Awards.
Let’s take a minute to consider them.
They come in all shapes and sizes and can do interesting things. Some are soulless undead, others sparkle. Vampires are featured in folklore spanning virtually every culture in every form imaginable. Their written concept dates back to the beginning of literature. Their origins vary according to the legend, and the list of their capabilities is as many and varied as the cultures in which they abound in an ever shifting world of changes depending on the decade they exist in.
Makes one wonder.
They’re sexy. Some are sex crazed.
They all have one thing in common, however: those delectable, utterly delicious fangs. Fangs have become synonymous with vampires. Technically, fangs are incisors and commonly referred to as ‘eye teeth’ or ‘canine teeth’. Let’s not sully the sexy with too much fact, though.
A vampire’s fangs can be used for so much more than simply biting holes in their victims. Lift a lip, snarl a little, let those pointy teeth show and you’ve got people shaking in their shoes or shivering for more. They can be used to lightly, or not so lightly, scrap along a lover’s skin, delivering a delicious tease or a playful nip when needed.
Jonas Forge is a small town homicide detective. He describes himself as the brawn, not the brains, of his group of friends. A description absolutely no one believes.
He is also a 240 year-old vampire and one of the stars of my novel, Electric Candle (book #2 of The Sleepless City, a series written with Anne Barwell). He’s had a lot of practice with this vampire business and uses his fangs for a variety of reasons ranging from comical, to everyday to just plain sexy.
Aggravate him and he’ll show a bit of fangs for just long enough to get his point across and make a person wonder, what did they see? He likes to pretend he’s a hard-ass, something else those who know him don’t believe. In reality the guy is a big sweetheart. One of his human friends, Ben, does nothing but roll his eyes when Forge attempts being scary.
It’s hard to believe a guy is frightening when you’ve seen him open beer bottles with those fangs.
Where Forge excels at using his fangs—he’s had lots of practice don’t forget—is in the seduction department. In Electric Candle when the fangs come out during sex no one dies; well maybe the other guy does just a little from the sheer hotness of it all and the desire to have more!
Forge isn’t a subtle man, a fact everyone who knows him absolutely believes. When he discovered the power of those fangs against skin, how they made his lover shiver and beg for more… well let’s just say he’s perfected his technique.
Fangs are powerful weapons when used to draw blood or skilled tools used to make love’s first kiss skyrocket to new heights of desire.
Vampires in our series have soul mates, and when they meet, the biological drive to bond is irresistible. Failing to do so could make a vampire insane. That doesn’t mean it’s love at first sight, bite, or anything else. For Forge, it’s a bit of a surprise. His soul mate turns out to be a brand new, shy, confused vampire who has no real clue as to what he is or what he is capable of.
What does this have to do with fangs? In The Sleepless City series, our vampires’ fangs are a part of their emotional expression. Both Forge, and his new found soul mate show their fangs to varying degrees when they are frustrated, angry, trying to prove a point or aroused.
In Forge it becomes an interesting mix of sweet and sexy.
Originally posted on Guys Like Romance Too
I used to hate baseball. When I was growing up it seemed everyone around me was fixated on the sport. I was horrible at playing it, I never understood the rules and when a game was on TV everything else stopped.
Then I grew up, went to college and found out there was more to sports than watching the event. There were things that went with the games, like discussions and parties, general socialization. I still didn’t like baseball, but I liked joining in on the things that went with it.
A little while later, I married a man who loved baseball of all things, and had children. Those children like their father, enjoyed baseball. I didn’t like baseball (or its cousin softball) but I was a regular attendee. Eventually I became a single mother. The entire time my kids were growing up one of the biggest challenges was to find things to do we all liked and that were affordable.
Attending baseball games (and later basketball) became our common ground. My kids played softball through school. When she was older my daughter was on a flag team for her high school band, so her brothers and I attended those sporting events as well. Many of the prizes the kids won in school were cheap baseball tickets. We live in Cleveland, Ohio. Indians tickets were cheap in the 90’s.
When my sons grew old enough to join an adult softball league I took the dogs and my daughter and I often went and watched. The half-naked, sweaty, in shape men on the softball teams had nothing to do with our interest—honest!
In one of my recent releases, Electric Candle, Jonas Forge is a 239 year old vampire who has been a vampire for a bit more than 200 of those years. He meets his soul mate, a 29 year old vampire, Blair Turner. Blair has been a vampire all of five years. While these two men may outwardly appear close in age there is actually a 210 year age span between them.
Talk about your May/December romance.
Forge and Blair begin their romance and relationship on shaky ground. The nature of their soul mate bond provides for attraction physically to one another and an emotional bond that grows into love.
It does not, however, help them like one another.
So often, in romance, we are so focused in the characters falling in love that we forget they also have to fall in like as well.
It was a challenge finding common ground for these two. They struggled to find a place for themselves as a couple. By the book’s end they’re still on shaky ground, but it’s not as shaky as when the book began. Blair has an passionate interest in history and Forge lived through quite a lot of history. While Forge is a movie fan, Blair is a graphic novel reader, but they both enjoy a good hero saga.
Forge and Blair gradually discover they each have valuable insight to offer each other. They also realize that their differences aren’t so great and they have much more in common than they first thought.
Then, of course, there is baseball.
A detail that didn’t make it into Electric Candle, but will probably show up eventually, is the fact both these guys are baseball fans. I suspect the teams they root for are going to be different and provide some interesting exchanges between them.
Go Tribe! (I’m now a confirmed Cleveland baseball fan).
Who in their right mind can resist a man throwing a ball for his dog? Everyone loves a guy who lets a cat snooze on his chest, or one who curries his horse on a hot summer day?
If they do so with their shirts off, even better.
The fact is, one great way to show parts of a character not readily apparent to the world is through their interactions with animals. People have pets, and they become a part of families and lives. A guy who is rough and gruff on the outside may become sweet and open in the presence of his dog. The bad boy becomes nurturing and soft spoken when presented with a hungry, stray cat.
When I’m not writing I’m a veterinary nurse, a career I love just as much as being an author. Our four legged friends and family members are important to me and something that has snuck into my writing. I think I’m simply incapable of imagining a happy life that doesn’t include a pet of some sort. In one way or another there is an animal featured in everything I’ve written since I learned to put words to the page.
In my recent release, Electric Candle, Jonas Forge is a 200+ year old vampire, a cop, thinks he’s a hard-ass and a confirmed dog lover. The guy who normally runs at trouble turns into a large pile of goo when his dog, Moose is around.
Moose became a minor character in his own right during Electric Candle. He’s not permitted to sleep on the furniture, so of course, he often sprawls on his back on the couch. Moose doesn’t steal food off the table, but readily accepts anything covertly offered. He’s in the thick of everything, a great jogging partner, and does his part to defend the vampires, werewolf, ghost and human he shares his large house with.
He’s no particular breed, but a German Shepherd mix, a big boy—around a hundred pounds and that tail never stops wagging!
I originally planned to write a little article on edits and how I feel about them. Then I spent the day with my daughter at a museum and saw a very interesting exhibit that set me to thinking.
The display was named Progress and it featured a look at life in Ohio and how it’s changed since the late 1800s. It was interesting and cool to see what things people once considered the most modern and technologically advanced items available at the time.
As we walked through I began pointing things out to my daughter that my grandparents owned. My grandparents raised me and now, many years after their deaths, I’ve come to realize the older I get the more like them I am.
They were both the people in our neighborhood to have the newest gadget and appliances. I remember vividly the day my grandfather brought home a new television. It was a color TV, and I was among the first of my friends to have such a thing in my house!
I have spent so much of my life keeping up with the times that I never stopped to think where my desire came from. So many of my friends (and even my daughter) lament the fact they were born too late. They feel they should have lived in a slower, less technological society.
Me, I moan and groan that I was born too early. I love technology. Bring on digital downloads, smartphones and Google Glass. The fact is that every age has had its technological advances, they simply vary. What we think of as old outdated was once new and spiffy.
Without even realizing what I was doing or why, I’ve passed this trait along to many of my characters in varying degrees.
One such character is Jonas Forge of my upcoming release Electric Candle. The name of the novel itself represents aspects of Forge’s character as well as the romantic relationship he develops in the course of the book.
Electric represents new and high tech. A candle is old fashioned, simple, and low tech. Forge is an amalgamation of both. He’s old, 239 years old to be exact. Even though he was a vampire who was turned just before the American Revolution, he’s moved with the times. Throughout his life he’s desired the newest tools, and collected what was the height of technology for each era. He’s an old guy, but he loves his smartphone, uses a computer very well and has adjusted to all the advances every decade has offered.
Forge is one of the lucky ones. He eventually was able to embrace what he’d become, adapt to his new life and move forward with each generation.
The real trick will be surviving discovery of his soul mate, a fledgling vampire struggling to adjust to his new life, and nothing can prepare either of them for that.
Originally posted as a guest blogger on Michael Rupured's website.
Last year I was lucky enough to attend the Dreamspinner Press Author conference and was surrounded by many other Dreamspinner Press authors. Nice folks, a little crazy but in that really sweet sort of way.
Naturally, when a bunch of writers larger than a group of one get together conversations turn to writerly things. There was all sorts of talk about balancing writing with the rest of our lives, the right plots, the wrong plots and story development.
The most in depth and by far interesting conversations revolved around our characters. We all went on and on about which of our characters were telling us their back stories, and which ones were about to find one another and how difficult it was to convince them to take their first kiss.
After I came home I began working with Anne Barwell developing our The Sleepless City series. Her book, Shades of Sepia, is the first book in the series and my upcoming release, Electric Candle is the second. It will be available April 4 from Dreamspinner Press.
My conversations with Anne, in part, revolved around what things this or that character was doing at the time.
I’ve often noticed, while engaged in conversations about our characters with readers and other authors alike, we talk about them as if they’re real. It makes me want to ask: you do know they’re not real, right?
Sometimes, I wonder.
I’m on the top of the list of offenders who treat my fictional people like they’re sitting here with me. I’ve come to realize the truth is, those people, my fictional people, do share my life day in and day out.
Sort of makes me sound crazy.
Then again, I think a prerequisite for being a writer is at least a dash of crazy.
The truth is, the reason a writer can bring characters ‘to life’ in a book is because of their relationship with those characters. Well-developed characters speak to us. They have a story to tell. There is so much more to a character than what goes into a book. I have many little details written down about each and every character that gets added in here and there as needed. Things like what they like to eat, or their favorite color.
Jonas Forge, one of the stars of Electric Candle is a sports fan. That fact is something that never came up in the book, but I do happen to know he’s a huge Cleveland Indians fan! Forge was a great character to work with, he’s got a lot of background after all, 239 year’s worth! He’s a vampire and a homicide detective. Even at his age things still surprise him. One of the biggest surprises is when love tumbles—quite literally—into his life.
Don’t tell Jonas he’s not real, it upsets him and he’s got a few more books to appear in. Nothing worse than trying to work with a difficult character.
Originally posted on Pants off Reviews
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