World Building – Indigo-style

by Jordan Dane

My young adult novel, Indigo Awakening, launched two days ago on December 18. It is the first book in the Hunted series with Harlequin Teen. The inspiration behind this book came from researching Indigo children. Query “Indigo Child” on the Internet and you’ll get over 8 million hits. Real life and headlines often inspire my books and this time is no exception. For the purposes of fiction, I took liberties in my portrayal, but Indigo kids are generally described as highly intelligent, gifted teen psychics with a bright “indigo” aura and a mission to save the world. They have high IQs, see angels and commune with the dead. Are Indigo children real or are they manipulated by adults to believe they’re special? Are they dysfunctional misfits or mankind’s evolutionary savior? You decide, but I find the notion of man’s evolution intriguing. Here is the synopsis:

Because of what you are, the Believers will hunt you down.

Voices told Lucas Darby to run. Voices no one else can hear. He’s warned his sister not to look for him, but Rayne refuses to let her troubled brother vanish on the streets of LA. In her desperate search, she meets Gabriel Stewart, a runaway with mysterious powers and far too many secrets. Rayne can’t explain her crazy need to trust the strange yet compelling boy—to touch him—to protect him even though he scares her.

A fanatical church secretly hunts psychic kids—gifted “Indigo” teens feared to be the next evolution of mankind—for reasons only “the Believers” know. Now Rayne’s only hope is Gabe, who is haunted by an awakening power—a force darker than either of them imagine—that could doom them all.

They are our future—if they survive…

Five Key Ways I Built my Indigo World

1.) I triggered my premise with a “What If…” question that had conflict – The most important question in a writer’s arsenal is “what if.” What if Indigo kids are the next evolution and their psychic abilities are evolving and escalating? Who would fear this and feel threatened? I had to have a larger than life villain with a universal reach to terrorize these children. (Yeah, that’s how authors think.)

2.) I created conflict through a powerful enemy – The Church of Spiritual Freedom (specifically, a covert operation of overzealous “Believers”) use their faith as justification to persecute those they fear, believing God is on their side. They fear that Indigos and Crystal children threaten humanity’s existence with their “unnatural” superiority. That’s the basic conflict, a David versus Goliath storyline with an abundance of potentially evocative themes.

3.) I did research to add depth and dimension –I blended my research on Indigo kids with the topic of psychic abilities to create a different kind of world that wouldn’t be formulaic. I wanted the reader to “feel” these powers and how they erupt or evolve within each character. I didn’t want to simply describe traditional psychic capabilities. I wanted readers to understand how these kids feel as their power explodes or how their gifts morph into something far greater after they make contact with the “hive mind.”

4.) I provided a cultural context and hierarchy to my world that added to internal conflict for my characters – There is a hierarchy of Indigo Children/Indigo Warriors/Crystal Child. I made Indigo kids the base level with the status of a Crystal child more unique, powerful, and elite. Indigos are highly intelligent intuitive teens who “feel” their way through life, trust their instincts above all else, and can often see angels and the dead. Some Indigos are warriors with a fierce fighting spirit and a rebellious nature. This difference fuels future conflict between the cultures as Crystal children tend to be more peace loving and innocent. They are our future, if they survive, but what kind of world will they build?

5.) I built in consequences for wielding power – There is a dark side to having these powers—a duty and responsibility—and when the Believers tamper with science and human nature, they battle something they should have respected more. In book #2, Crystal Storm, There are consequences on both sides when power (of any kind) becomes abusive.

1.) If you could have a secret Indigo power, what would that be?

2.) Have you ever experienced a psychic moment or do you know anyone who you think is a real psychic?

“Dane’s first offering in her new series, The Hunted, is sensational. Indigo Awakening has strong characters and a wild and intense story, matched only by the emotions it will generate within you. Readers will love this book and eagerly await the next adventure. Fantastic! A keeper.”

~Romantic Times Book Review Magazine – 4.5 Stars (out of 5)

Watchers: Heroes in Fiction (Guest Post Donna Galanti)

Hosted by Jordan Dane

I’m pleased to have a guest for TKZ today. Donna Galanti is the author of the paranormal suspense novel A Human Element (Echelon Press). She is an ITW debut author of the class of 2011/2012 and a member of SCBWI and Horror Writers Association. She lives with her family in an old farmhouse in PA with lots of nooks, fireplaces, and stinkbugs but sadly no ghosts.

Welcome, Donna!

Watchers. My favorite fictional figures that hover on the sidelines weaving in and out of the story. They change lives.

You may know them as guardians, guides, mentors, or allies. They help the hero on his journey by blocking them, guiding them, or even saving them. They can be a mysterious and dark overseer or a jolly and light eccentric. They ultimately save the hero or motivate him to save himself.

In my suspense novel, A Human Element, I created The Man in Black (Felix) as a watcher. He is a guardian, a guide, and a hero. He connects to both the earthly and the other-worldliness in my characters. Sometimes Felix is there, like a lifeguard, and sometimes he’s watching and you simply sense his presence, more like a god. In the end he suffers and is a martyr for the greater good so his people can go on.

How did Felix evolve and how do I perceive his function? He evolved as an instrument of light to help others survive so his own world would survive. His presence allows me to push the protagonist truly beyond the brink and eventually be saved. He also represents hope and acts as a catalyst to keep hope alive. He is like a god because he changes the destiny of others for a greater good (an entire people). And, like a god, he chooses not to always interfere unless it’s for the greater good. In a way he is a mythical figure.

My favorite mythical watcher in fiction is Merlin from the Arthurian legend. He’s a man of mystery and magic with roles as a sorcerer, prophet, bard, adviser, and teacher. In Mary Stewart’s Merlin Trilogy, Merlin is an ordinary mortal but one with intuitive intelligence and clairvoyance. He has foreseen that Arthur will become a great king who will unite all of Britain.

Just as Felix’s mission in A Human Element drove him to facilitate a child’s creation to carry on the line of his dying people, Merlin’s vision led him to facilitate Arthur’s creation as well. I like the idea of connecting medieval to modern times knowing that Merlin and Felix share the same mission. They both originate as earthly and mystical watchers who change destinies so their people may conquer. And don’t we, as authors, often look to the past to create something new in the present?

It appeals to me that often the watcher figure is a hero too, willing to sacrifice his life for the one he oversees. He gives the protagonist what he needs to finish his journey and outwit death, and in doing so may need saving himself.

Literature is full of such heroes whose actions require that they, too, be saved. Like Arthur “Boo” Radley in Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird. He’s a mysterious character we slowly get to know. At first, perceived as a dark, ghostly figure he ends up saving the children, Scout and Jem. He’s a self-exiled loner who appears as needed to save the children from evil. In the end Scout and Jem save him back, providing justice for Boo.   

One of my favorite authors, Dean Koontz, is known for his watchers. In his book, Lightning, Stefan Krieger is a watcher hero who needs saving himself. He’s a time traveler and a guardian of Laura since she was born. He interferes when necessary to save her life many times. In doing so he changes the course of her destiny for good–and bad. His fate eventually interweaves with hers until they are caught in a life or death situation. He saves Laura, but in the end she saves him too.

I can’t forget my beloved animal watchers in fiction. In Watchers (great name!) by Dean Koontz, Einstein is a genetically altered golden retriever with human intelligence. He’s also saved by the couple he watches too. Escaped and on the run, Einstein acts as a guide to bring these two lonely people together and transform them. He becomes their guardian inspiring them to save him from his nemesis, who in turn watches him. Check out other fictional dogs in literature HERE, including my favorites, Buck and White Fang.

I didn’t realize I had an obsession with watcher figures until pulling book after book out from my shelves. And then I knew why. I adore tormented characters and that’s often what watchers are. And that’s why I write them. They are wounded heroes that travel with us to the dark side and help draw us back. They may not always save the hero by their own hand, but at that critical moment they drive the hero to take control of his own destiny. And sometimes the watcher needs saving right back.

Do you have favorite watchers from other books or movies? What “saves” you, as author, when you’ve spent too long on your dark side? Do you have a “watcher” to help pull you back from the dark side and save you?

Donna Galanti Contact Info:
Facebook & Website & Twitter: @donnagalanti

Fangs for the Easy Listening Jazz

At my first Thrillerfest in New York, I was perusing the table in the booksellers’ room when this juicy title caught my eye: X-Rated Blood Suckers, with a cover that was strikingly reminiscent of a 70s Grindhouse flick. In my opinion Mario Acevedo has, hands down, the best titles and covers in the biz. (He also has the best book trailer, see it here). And his stories, featuring vampire detective Felix Gomez, deliver all the fun and excitement those covers promise. The Kill Zone is thrilled to have him join us today for a walk on the wild side of thrillers: paranormals and the supernatural.

by Mario Acevedo

While I’m known for my vampire-detective stories, I like to think of myself as a mystery writer. What I like about the mysteMarioVampiroEditry genre is that there is no equivocation about the story question. We know what’s at risk and what motivates the protagonist. Saving his ass!

In mystery stories we writers can wallow in the dark underbelly of society and call it research.

We love asking questions such as:

“What’s the best poison given these circumstances?”

“Where’s a good place to hit a skull with a sledgehammer?”

“How can I use cross-dressing autoerotic asphyxiation as a plot device?”

At mystery writer meetings we can sit through dinner when the presentation is a medical examiner’s PowerPoint of autopsies. “May I have another slice of cheesecake and could you go back to the picture of blood spatter on the headboard?”

We can say with a straight face, “Honest Mr. Police Officer, I was only asking the price of a blow job from this woman as research. I need authentic details.”

JailbaitZombieEnhanced_TN In mystery literature we can show the complex relationships between characters. Lying. Infidelity. Betrayal. And that’s among the good guys. We can play with the motives for crime: Jealousy. Lust. Greed. We explore lives ruined by humiliation and murder. That’s entertainment!

In any novel, what keeps a reader turning pages is tension and conflict. And no genre does tension and conflict better than a good mystery. What keener source of tension than begging for your life while at the wrong end of a gun?

Since I write vampire-detective mysteries, I have to layer in the supernatural elements. Until recently, vampires were the monsters fanging humans, an act that resulted in murder, or at least assault and battery. Now vampires are the good guys and we could have them be all nice and not drink human blood (or worse, go vegan), in which case, what’s the point of being an undead bloodsucker? My challenge is weaving the supernatural with the gritty noir of a mystery.

The keys to a mystery are the committing of a crime and the threat of a bigger crime if the hero doesn’t persevere. But a crime according to who? A werewolf gnawing on your dismembered torso doesn’t regard himself a criminal anymore than does a senator whoring himself to the rich. It’s simply his nature.

So while supernatural beings might disregard human laws at will, they must abide by their own code of conduct. What are the no-no’s? Zombies don’t regard noshing on human brains as murder so what would be considered taboo for revenants? Perhaps you can only eat Catholics on Fridays.

In supernatural mysteries we have a strong story question that braids the natural and the supernatural. Our hero must solve a crime affecting not just one world but two. It can be a mystery we can all love to read.

So here’s a question: if you created a paranormal character, what would their special power be? And what would they fear? Garlic, water, easy-listening jazz?

Mario Acevedo writes the Felix Gomez vampire-detective series for Eos HarperCollins. Mario travels the astral plane (using frequent flyer miles) to research the world of vampires, zombies, and alien gangsters. He lives and writes in Denver, CO.

Check out book 4 in the Felix Gomez vampire-detective series: Jailbait Zombie (Eos HarperCollins). Vampires vs zombies in the ultimate undead smackdown. Available Feb 25 at better bookstores everywhere.

SPECIAL BONUS! You can download a copy of my first book, The Nymphos of Rocky Flats, through Feb 24 by clicking here

Why is the paranormal still hot?

By Clare Langley-Hawthorne

On the New York Time’s bestseller list for mass market fiction, ten of the top 20 are novels that deal with the paranormal – looks like (despite predictions that it’s heyday was on the wane) that paranormal is still hot. The mega-success of Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight series and recent movie certainly confirms it and I have to confess, caught up in the wave of interest, I spent most of Thanksgiving week reading the Twilight series. Seems as though the angst ridden teenager inside me has not yet disappeared…and that got me and my good friend Charysse talking. What is it about the paranormal – particularly the vampire novel – that continues to intrigue us?

After some wine and way too much food our respective husbands disappeared into the other room and we talked some more. I was particularly interested as a YA idea had been percolating in my brain and while I didn’t see any paranormal bent to it as yet – it did have some of the Gothic hallmarks of the fantasy and paranormal YA books that seem to be popular today. I’m not one to write to the market but the question was undeniable – why do we continue to be fascinated, as children, young adults and adults by the paranormal. What draws us to the mythology of the ‘other-world’? Why continue to explore the question of whether vampires, werewolves or other demonic forms walk amongst us?

We decided that sex was one of the first reasons – hey, in the romance world, sex with vampires is pretty darn hot. Maybe the lure of the paranormal is the lure of out-of-this-world sex…or not?…One of the main attractions I think for the Twilight series was the fact that sex was too damn dangerous between mortal and vampire. That somehow made the repressed, tortured emotions and desire of young adulthood all the more fraught. And here was a guy who said no…the ultimate in teenage girl fantasies perhaps? Gorgeous, brooding, dangerous, immortal but also the quintessential gentleman…At this point my friend and I both shook our heads and asked WTF???!

So if sex (or the lack of it) isn’t the allure – is it the bloodlust? Is it the fact that paranormal explanations for truly horrific crimes make them somehow easier for our human minds to digest? Does it provide us with some kind of reassurance that there are demons that are not human (as opposed to only those who are?)

I confess I’m happy to read paranormal novels as much (if not more) than the next girl. I was a huge Buffy fan and am someone willing to drink in (if you’ll pardon the pun) many a vampire novel. I love Gothic tales and revel in an imaginative story that conjures up another world.

Nonetheless the continued appeal of the paranormal intrigues me – what do you think drives the continued demand for these types of books? Do you think interest is on the wane and if it is…what is likely to replace it?