Calle J. Brookes: How to Write a Series Without Missing Any Details
How To Write A Series Without Missing Any Details.
Thank you, Lisa, for inviting me to your blog! I don’t do many guest posts and am honored to be here.
I’ve been writing professionally since the age of eighteen when I lucked into a part-time journalism position, and my love and enjoyment of working with the written word has only grown through the years. Now, I am glad to say that I write fiction full-time, and I self-publish most.
My current writing obsessions include my paranormal romance series featuring the Dardanos, Co. characters and my romantic suspense series featuring members of the PAVAD division of the FBI.
Here’s a quick sum-up of each series.
They’d inhabited Gaia long before humans, the Dardaptoans, the Lupioux, Demons, Warriors alike. They’d lived, loved, and battled through the millennia. Now, the time has come for them to stake their claim on the world they loved—before it was too late. The vampiric Dardaptoan race had settled in the mountains of Colorado, where they’d existed in peace with their human neighbors. Until the human Leo Taniss started hunting them. Now the leaders of the Dardaptoans have to do what they must to protect their people…even if it means eliminating Taniss’s granddaughters one by one…
PAVAD: PREVENTION & ANALYSIS OF VIOLENT ACTS DIVISION:
PAVAD—the Prevention & Analysis of Violent Acts Division is a special directorate of the FBI, located in St. Louis due to its central location, and ran by Deputy Director Edward Dennis. PAVAD was formed by Edward Dennis to combat today’s modern crimes in a modern nation. PAVAD consists of only the best of the FBI’s best, and addresses cases involving everything from kidnapping, money-laundering, extortion, all the way up to RICO violations. The PAVAD unit consists of more than a dozen teams ready to mobilize at a moment’s notice to every corner of the United States…
At this point, each series has at least ten books planned and in the works. The second installment of the PAVAD series will be released Friday, Oct. 12th, and the tenth story in the Dardanos, Co. series will be released around Christmas time this year.
One thing I’m often asked about—and complimented on—is how I keep the details of both series straight throughout the books. It isn’t easy, that’s for sure. Especially since I am not a writer who plots. I tend to write off the cuff and go back and fix any problems in later drafts. Sometimes…sometimes a character grows a few inches between chapters, or his eyes change color…or I reverse his name. All kinds of things.
Once I started to notice this happening—and after some very last minute edits to a few books—I decided I’d better get a system in place.
So I made a series bible. A series bible for a writer is kind of like one for a television show—it has necessary details and written-down visions and basic ‘oh-yeahs’ for the writer to use at later dates.
At the absolute beginning of my ‘bibles’ I have a list of one-or-two paragraph summaries of each story I have currently planned. I also include a short tidbit of which later book this book needs to set up. Then I move on.
In this bible I have a section for character descriptions of every character that I think may be used in the entire series (I have a tendency to create a character then decide he/she needs her own story, too). I will list things like height, weight, hair, eyes, dominant personality traits, etc. Anything that might come up later.
For the paranormal series, I have a HUGE section devoted to the ‘rules’ of the world I’m developing. In my Dardanos series, my vampires tend to freeze to death if the temperature around them drops lower than fifty degrees. Probably because they only have a fraction of the blood in their bodies that humans do! In my ‘bible; I go into great detail about why this freeze can occur, how to recognize the signs, what the healers might do, etc.
Why? Because I can’t have the healer treat the condition one way in a book, then totally contradict myself in a later book. That is not the world I want to create for my readers. The best fictional series are ones that are consistent throughout. That’s what I wanted.
Another thing I have noticed in my series writing is that I tend to have overreaching storylines that tie later books to the earlier. These storylines occupy a quarter of my ‘bibles’. Anything that may later appear has to be noted. Maybe not in great detail, but it should serve as a reminder of my intentions at that point of writing it down.
In the PAVAD series, for example, I have Evan Stephenson. Evan Stephenson is kind of a favorite character for me. He’s not well liked, though not because of anything he has done. But he does turn out to be a heroic character in a couple of later books. Right now I am making notes of him and what he needs to do in early books to set up for later books—including his own!
In the final fourth of my ‘bibles’ I leave a section for notes/research and miscellanea. In the paranormal I have very detailed maps of the demon world that a few characters travel to in Awakening the Demon’s Queen. In the PAVAD section I have a detailed list of FBI agents on each team. (Think Criminal Minds’ profilers!)
These ideas are not foolproof and I don’t always keep up with the ‘bibles’ like I should, but it does help me jog my memory when needed. And hopefully, keep things straight as these fictional worlds keep getting bigger and bigger!
For a taste of some of my ‘worlds’ (and to see if I kept the details straight!) my blog has several reads, including The Blood King (first in the Dardanos series, now free!), The Healer’s Heart, and The Wolf God & His Mate (full-length novella!). I’m also in the process of writing a free PAVAD read-in-progress that can be found hiding on my blog.
And to celebrate the upcoming release of WANTING, the second book in my PAVAD series, the first in the series (WATCHING) will be available at $1.29 until Sunday, Oct. 21, 2012! (Amazon and Smashwords Only!)
People who preyed on those weaker and more defenseless than themselves deserved whatever punishment was thrown at them.
That thought drove Dr. Georgia Dennis in every decision she made, personal and professional. A profiler with the Complex Crimes Unit of the FBI, she was tired of being second-guessed by her boss Michael “Hell” Hellbrook. Once they caught the sociopath responsible for stoning teenaged girls, she was gone from Hellbrook’s team faster than the ink could dry on the transfer papers.
Georgia and Hellbrook are hot on the trail of a sadistic killer targeting women and girls with brown hair and brown eyes—women with a striking resemblance to Georgia.
Hellbrook will do anything to protect his team, even the woman he never wanted on it in the first place. By keeping her at his side, he grows closer to her until the flame between them erupts and consumes them both. As they get deeper involved with the case and with each other, they do not realize someone else is watching, someone whose descent into madness threatens everyone around them.
Is this watcher their killer, or someone much closer?
Carrie Sparks was phenomenal at her job as a special agent with the Complex Crimes Unit of the FBI’s PAVAD directorate, despite her being on the autistic spectrum. Just because Unit Chief Sebastian Lorcan first met her at the lowest point in her career didn’t change that fact. Couldn’t. Wouldn’t. Still, he had every right not to like her—just like she had every right not to like him.
So if they had a mutual dislike agreement, why was the catlike man at her door late one night?
Lorcan needed help finding a friend’s missing daughter, and with his team out of town on a case, Carrie Sparks was the only resource he had…
Carrie agreed to help him because she saw herself in the young runaway. She’d help him, but she didn’t have to like him.
But while they’re searching for Ashleigh, someone else is searching for Carrie. Does he mean well or does he have far more sinister plans?
Whatever his intentions, one thing becomes increasingly clear to Sebastian and Carrie…You can’t always get what you want…
Red and whiskey accents against a warm cream. Like her. Agent Sebastian Lorcan looked around, taking in the interior of the hallway. It suited the woman he’d come to see, and surprised the hell out of him. The door finally opened a portion; red hair and whiskey eyes were just visible in the gap.
“Agent Lorcan, what are you doing here? I don’t have people from the Bureau at my home. Ever.”
Her words were low and he strained to hear. Her tone was anything but welcoming and he didn’t blame her. He’d not exactly gone out of his way to be friendly with her over the past few months.
“I need to talk to you. It’s urgent.” He pushed the door back and stepped into her apartment. She jumped back to avoid touching him. Like she always did. It irritated him every time.
Her loft apartment was definitely not what he’d expected. He’d always thought she’d eat, sleep, and breathe surrounded by her precious computers—in a small, cramped little hovel only minutes from the Bureau. This place was close to the Bureau, but that was the only thing he’d been right about.
He’d never pictured her in this luxury apartment with granite countertops, leather furnishings, and expensive accents. This woman had some serious dough, somewhere. Curious. “Nice place.”
“My place. So why are you here?” She didn’t glare at him, but Lorcan thought it was pretty damned close. She stood between him and the two small steps that led up into the living area off the kitchen.
“I need your help.”
“With what? Don’t you have someone on your team who can work a simple computer program? I doubt you’re an agent short.” She blocked him with her body when he would have taken those steps into the living room. Her body was taut, and her hand firm where she rested it against his arm.
“I can work the damned computer.” He looked down at the woman nearly pressed against him. She smelled wonderful—almost enough to distract him from his purpose. Almost, but he reined himself in.
He’d always found Special Agent Carrie Sparks distracting.
“So what? A case?” She bent and lifted the black cat that rubbed against her leg. She cuddled the beast against her chest. It purred. Lorcan couldn’t blame him. He’d want to purr next to that chest, too. His body tightened at that thought, a state he was accustomed to being in whenever around her. “I’m off for the next four days. I’ve built up too much paid time off for this month.”
“I know. This isn’t through the Bureau.”
She still eyed him warily, suspicion clear. “Then I can’t help you.”
“May I sit down?” He didn’t wait for her permission, slipping passed her and approaching the couch. He glanced over his shoulder just as annoyance slipped over her face.
“Sure. Go right ahead. May I get you something to drink; beer, soda, water?”
It was the first he’d ever heard sarcasm from her. It surprised him; he’d always thought people with Aspergers were incapable of it. “Soda sounds fine. Thank you.”
She opened the fridge and pulled out two green cans. He settled on her couch; it was as comfortable as it had looked. She plopped his soda on the end table, before perching on the glass and chrome coffee table. The cat hopped up beside her, climbing into her lap. He stretched one paw over the woman’s lap, and looked at Lorcan. His eyes were glowing with what could only be interpreted as possessive claiming of his mistress.
Lorcan repressed to urge to say anything to the woman—or the cat. “Thank you.”
“Why are you here?” She repeated her question, and he wondered if it was just her customary speech pattern, or a product of her own annoyance at his intrusion.
“Seven days ago this little girl ran away from home.” He pulled a small picture out of his pants pocket. She took it from him warily. “Her mother called a friend of mine. Who called me.”
“And the police have nothing?”
“She’s fourteen and has had trouble before. Frankly, I don’t think they’re looking that hard.”
“So why can’t your team help you?” She returned the picture to him, and looked out the window at the St. Louis arch, an odd expression on her face. “Why me?”
“She wasn’t abducted. Case doesn’t fit the parameters required for my unit. My team is still with the rest of yours in Nashville. And you’ve also been given mandatory leave. I have no one else available. This shouldn’t take long. I want to find her, I need to find her. I’ve known her since she was six.”
She bit her lip and looked at him. “I don’t know. What do you need?”
She was close to capitulating. It was in the way she looked at the photograph in her hand. He leaned forward, but kept his shoulders relaxed. Unthreatening. “Please, Agent Sparks. She’s just a child and woefully unprepared for the world outside on the streets. I need to find her.”
She sighed and Lorcan knew he had her cooperation. She squared her shoulders and looked at him directly, making eye contact. “I’ll do it.”
At her words, the tension that had plagued him for the last three hours lessened slightly. He needed her skills, and now he had them. “Thank you.”
“What do you know so far?” Carrie moved, sitting beside him. Her shoulder brushed his. Lorcan felt that ghosting touch and his whole body went on alert. This enigma did something to him faster than any other woman on the planet, and with any other kind of woman he would have acted on it months ago. But not Carrie Sparks and not just because of her obvious differences. She was not the kind of woman a man like him ever fooled around with. Too many consequences would be involved.
He knew and would just have to remind himself of that. “First, the computer. Her mom said she spent quite a lot of time online. Blogs, emails, social media. Then I want to talk to her parents, in person.”
Carrie nodded. “I can start on the internet searches from here. My computers are in here.”
He followed her to the back wall. Just visible was the outline of a built-in sliding door. It so seamlessly blended into the cedar wall around it that had she not opened it, he would have missed it. One more indication that this place was pretty damned pricey. And that didn’t fit with who he thought she was. Junior agent, living on a beginning federal employee salary—it wasn’t enough to afford a place like this. Where was her money coming from? “How long have you lived here?”
Carrie watched the man invading her home and couldn’t help but feel the irritation that he always caused. It was so much worse than usual; this was her sanctuary. And he’d invaded. If it hadn’t been for that little girl…
“Eighteen months.” She flicked the switch to power the lights and the six screens that were housed in the small room. It had once been a bathroom, but she’d repurposed it. Her pair of laptops that she carried with her on cases were her babies, but this room was her heart. Four higher-than-state-of-the-art hard drives were lined up like neat little soldiers under a long table. She’d built the hard drives from spare parts. Two wireless keyboards were configured to operate any drive.
The room had no windows; she hated glare on her screens when she worked. It seemed smaller and darker than she knew it to be. She attributed that to the man crowding behind her; she could hear his breathing over the steady hum of her machines. The hum usually comforted her as much as Linux’s purrs, but not this time. Not with him in the room. “You need to understand something. No one has ever seen this room. I need your word that you won’t disclose its location.”
“Why? Do you keep this quiet, I mean?”
“I’ve had burglaries before. And they’ve stolen important code. This was in Virginia, and I was asleep in the other room. I wasn’t able to stop them, though I tried. Do I have your word?”
“Of course. I won’t tell a soul.” He nodded, though Carrie suspected he didn’t understand. But the night that her old apartment had been broken into had left an indelible memory, just as strong as the sight of her mother dying in front of her when she was nine. Carrie needed a safe place, especially in her own home. This was it.
“What is the girl’s name and do you have her email address?”
“Ashleigh Cavanaugh.” He repeated the email address he’d been given. The room surprised him, but not as much as his anger at her need for it. She would have been extremely young when living and training in Virginia, only twenty-three or twenty-four. Vulnerable. The idea of a young Carrie sleeping in her bed and some strange, faceless man breaking into her home aroused all his protective instincts and he forced them back down. She brought out the caveman in him so easily. Did she realize that?
“I’ll track her internet paths. Since she’s over thirteen, she can open her own social media accounts. If I can find her communications, you can profile her posts to see if we can get a read on what’s going on.” She spoke with confidence, not repeating herself even once. It surprised him; she always took the background with her team. She was part of the Complex Crimes Unit of the FBI, and her team was a team of Bureau superstars. Lorcan’s team was the number three team—the other two teams were older—with the CCU. In the two months Lorcan had been assigned to St. Louis, he’d had plenty of opportunity to observe Carrie and her team.
She was the least experienced, and in Lorcan’s estimation, the most vulnerable. She’d proven that the first time he’d met her, having been the victim of an attack by a former colleague that left her battered and in a leg cast.
He still didn’t understand why Hellbrook, her team leader, didn’t keep her confined to the police stations they visited. It was where she belonged, safe behind her computer screens. And that’s where her strengths were. Carrie was phenomenal with computers, but she had certification by Quantico to be in the field, having gone through the Academy with honors. He’d checked her file the first week he’d been in St. Louis. He’d been curious about her from the moment he’d first seen her.
Hellbrook required every member of his teams to be investigative agents, as well as any specialist position they may be qualified for. The CCU had former police investigators, two psychologists, a media specialist, the top pathologist in the nation, and a former ATF agent. Plus Carrie, with her computer skills.
She continued speaking. “In my experience, these kids always leave hints, or trails. They very rarely keep it entirely to themselves.”
“Your experience?” How much experience could this beautiful neophyte agent possibly have?
“Yes, in my experience…Ten years ago, I was one of them.”
Coming Friday, Oct. 12, 2012
Calle J. Brookes is the author of several paranormal romances set in Dardanos, Colorado and of the PAVAD romantic suspenses. Her work can be purchased at every major ebook retailer, including Barnes and Noble and Amazon. She can be found lurking around the web at www.callejbrookes.wordpress.com.