Thursday, April 7, 2011

Plotting in the Shared World

Seven Souls A Leaping

In January, Sapphire Blue Publishing released the first shared world anthology that I participated in. Seven Souls a Leaping focused on the story of siblings Duncan and Sam and their cousin Tara. The idea for a shared world anthology began batting around between Lisa Pietsch, K.F. Zuzulo and I. We knew a handful of items when we got started:

  • We knew our main protagonists were related
  • We knew they were all psychically gifted (or cursed)
  • We knew they were based out of Boston
  • We knew they’d share a villain, one growing progressively more evil
  • We knew they’d meet a soul mate and fall in love

That’s a lot to know when you get started, but in a shared world anthology, it’s the minutiae that you need to know so that each of you can twist your tale and meld with the others.

Funny issues we had in blending our worlds were the names. While we had similar description threads for our villain (unintentionally), we all spelled the last name a little differently. But our editor caught that. When it came to writing the shared world anthology, we all wrote at our own pace, knowing where each story had to “leave” off so the next could begin, but we didn’t always know the “how” of that leave off.

Coordinating Seven Souls a Leaping was half the fun of writing it, but the real pleasure came when I saw the finished product and how each story dovetailed neatly into the next.

On the Plot Again

Not long after we finished Seven Souls a Leaping, we started chatting about another anthology in a shared world. We had lots of ideas on the table – including another NENA adventure. (NENA, by the way, is New England New Age Investigations the agency owned by our protagonists in the first anthology). We had a reunion story idea and we had one that was set in a Las Vegas Casino.

Spells, Slots and Sirens: Stories of the Arcana Royale was born. Plotting this shared world was simpler because the only commonality we needed to rely on was the setting: the casino/hotel itself and the multiple lounges within that casino.

This shared world has a different set of complications from our first, but it also has a sense of extended freedom that we didn’t experience in Seven Souls a Leaping, primarily that we could do whatever we wanted, because after all, what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas.

Spells, Slots and Sirens: Stories of the Arcana Royale is due to be released in late June. My contribution is entitled Soulgirls and the story came nearly fully formed the more we talked about our casino.

Want a sneak peek?

I thought you might.

Malcolm ignored her as she strutted away, refusing to be enticed or distracted by the roll of her hips in the snug bottoms that left little to the imagination. Instead, he studied his surroundings. This was not his first trip to the Royale. He’d come to the opening night with Marcus’ father. They’d gotten drunk on bloody vodkas and aperitifs.

The Midnight Mystery Lounge was not familiar, but the tiered audience, secluded tables and staged set up promised a show. Another distraction. The Overseers knew the purpose of his request. He was seeking to settle Marcus’ debt and have him released from whatever servitude they were planning for his cousin. He’d promised his Aunt Ruth. His Uncle remained silent on the matter, but Uncle Matthias was not one to beg.

He was tired of the rescue gambit. If Marcus had dug his grave, then he should have to lie in it.

Malcolm typically agreed with such sentiments, particularly where the younger and more arrogant of their kin were concerned, but Ruth was his favorite aunt. He couldn’t say no to her. Malcolm Reynolds had served his family in every capacity for five centuries from politician to diplomat to spy to courier. Since their relocation to New Amsterdam in the early 1700s, he’d undertaken the study and the framing of law.

The prospects that his cousin’s servitude was unimpeachable only whet Malcolm’s desire for the challenge. Every table boasted two to three warm and cold bodies alike. Vampires, werewolves, witches, sorcerers and even a few demons were scattered amongst the warm-blooded humans. Some were here for food, some for the spectacle and some wouldn’t be going home.

That was a worry for the City’s Prince, so Malcolm dismissed it. He leaned back, turning the glass idly in one hand and waited for the show to begin. The overhead lights dimmed as though on cue. An expectant hush blanketed the darkness, relieved only by the flickering of carefully placed candles.

A lone spotlight pooled in the center of the stage, wisps of fog, smoke and vapor wafting through the long column of light. The music was subtle, a tease to the more sensitive ears of the crowd. A rhythmic pulse.


Malcolm leaned forward, excitement stealing across his gut. The feeling, so unfamiliar, left a path of unease in its wake. But heartbeats grew louder.

The raw double-bump and whoosh of blood thrumming through veins aroused his predatory instincts. Nothing on the stage moved.


The pregnant pause held him in its sway. A ferric scent sprinkled with a hint of jasmine caressed his lips. His fangs dropped a fraction, a young man’s reaction. The outside world faded from existence as a shimmering mirage glided into the light.

Slender, blonde and beautiful like a goddess of sand and snow, she wore a costume dripping with sapphires, glittering gems that caressed golden skin and glowed against the platinum blonde of her hair. From each wrist-dripped fox tails and her head wore a crown of diamonds, sapphires and feathers.

“Ladies and gentlemen, the Arcana Royale and the Midnight Mystery Lounge present Pandora!”

From beneath lashes fringed in diamond dust, sapphire eyes locked with his. Sound and light exploded as the goddess of snow and sand began to dance. He drank in every motion. Her legs kicked. Her pelvis thrust. Her arms reached up towards the sky.

He was mesmerized.

Malcolm set the drink down with a thump.

His fangs extended. His will eroded.

Every twist she took, every turn, brought her gaze back to him.

His blood sang with the hunt.


  1. Sounds great Heather! And Fun!

  2. Seven Souls a Leaping was great fun to put together. I have always loved working with you.
    I can't wait to read Soulgirls!