On August 2nd, my popular novel, Last Flight of the Ark re-releases. This story has one of my most unique plots, one that often has my readers asking: Where do you come up with this stuff?
That is probably one of the most frequently asked questions an author hears—I hear. One we don’t mind answering, but it can get a bit tricky trying to explain exactly what goes on in our heads. So, I’m going to attempt to do it. I’m opening up the doors and letting you inside a gale-force brainstorm. Everything you see will be as it is when I go through the plotting process, from thought to keyboard.
All novels start with a single idea. The idea can come from something as simple as your child’s homework; conversations overheard during people-watching or even a dream. For this post I’m going to borrow some zombies and make it into a romance.
Okay, I see you rolling your eyes. How the heck are you going to slip a cadaver in there, make it sexy and stay away from necrophilia? Ah, the second part of a writer’s brainstorming process, “what if?” Don’t you love a good challenge?
Before I get to the zombies, I want to talk physics for a second. Don’t run away. Science can be interesting. Seriously. In my humblest of opinions, all science started once as fantasy. The difference is simple. Science is proven theory; fantasy is theory yet to be proven.
Don’t buy it? Two hundred years ago you’d have been burned at the stake for using your cell phone or even suggesting man could fly or travel to the moon. Back then, it was all fantasy and magic. Impossible. Ten years ago, invisibility was fantasy, today its fact. Scientists can bend electromagnetic waves to make objects invisible to the naked eye. Okay, getting off topic here, but keep your mind open. Okay?
Physics. Let’s talk about traveling faster than the speed of light. Scientists say it’s physically impossible to do. If we could, the universe would open up to us. We could travel to distant star systems within our galaxy or even to other galaxies.
So, how do they know traveling faster than the speed of light is impossible?
Escape velocity is the speed it takes for an object to escape the gravitational pull of another object, for example Earth. The speed an object must travel to get free of Earth’s gravitational pull is in direct relationship to its size. So, the bigger the object, the stronger the gravitational pull. You still with me?
So, an object so massive it can swallow galaxies has to have some serious gravitational pull. Here’s where the black holes come in. You don’t see a black hole in space. What you see is the absence of light. When the pull of an object is so great, even light can’t escape it, you end up with a black hole. Now, since we can’t travel faster than the speed of light, and scientists know this by studying black holes, is there a way around this theory?
Yes. I think there is. What if you could manipulate space? Fold it, bend it, twist it or even loop it?
Okay, right about now I can see you’re scratching your head and wondering what the heck this has to do with zombies. Remember what I said about all science being fantasy once? Here’s where we cross genres and add that magic. We’re writers, this is our universe, our rules and we’re not confined by anything except our imagination.
Let that fantasy part of your brain kick in for a second. Suspend your beliefs. Remember, your world, your rules. Take a strip of paper. Put an A on one end and a B on the other. Measure that distance as though it were a distance a ship would have to travel. Now fold it, placing the two letters together. What’s the distance between the letters now?
The thing is, even if both objects travel light speed, one trip is going to take less time. Why? Because we manipulated the environment around it. We didn’t try to break any speed records; we’re still traveling light speed. We simply made the trip shorter.
Back to the zombies.
What is a zombie? An undead without a soul? The living dead? What if, a scientist designed a device that could manipulate travel from one spot to the other by altering space? But—since you can’t fit a square peg in a round hole, he needs to make some changes. In order to move the object through this altered space, he must first alter the matter on a molecular level. Let’s call this process teleportation.
How much of that matter makes it from point A to point B? What if inanimate objects work fine, but when he tests it on himself, his soul doesn’t go with his body. What if someone had been waiting for man to evolve this exact technology and they hijack his body in transit?
Now I’ve got a disembodied hero who has to figure out how to get back in his body and warn the world. But hold on. We can’t stop here. That would be too easy. What if there are legions of these energies waiting for bodies, living on an alternate plain--that folded space, parallel to our existence? Now we’ve got a scientist out of his body and unable to communicate the danger to others.
What are they? Demons? Ghosts? No, let’s give the reader what they didn’t expect—aliens from another dimension, people who’ve colonized our world for thousands of years, lived side by side with us. Perhaps we always assumed they were ghosts.
Now how does our hero alert the world to the danger, that his invention has opened the door to an invasion from the other side? Here’s where our zombies come in. Because he can alter space, jump from one plain to the other, he can move greater distances and the physical laws of our world don’t apply to him. Perhaps he can jump into or possess the body of someone deceased and because he has both altered his form and environment, he can do it from a distance.
A solution, but it’s not going to be easy for him. He’s now got to warn the world as one of the walking dead. Not an easy task for sure. But we’re not going to stop there. It’s still too easy for our hero. We’ve got to make him suffer. It’s our responsibility to put our characters through hell. Put on your evil-author hat. Here we go.
Perhaps his doppelganger has already been contacted by the military and they are using his technology to transport ships, fighter jets and troops. The invaders could have seized thousands in a matter of days. Now our hero has to break onto a military installation as a zombie and dismantle the technology. But he’s not alone; he's got buddies, other people who’ve been hijacked, perhaps a Special Forces unit, but the only bodies they could find on short notice, were from a nursing home?
This will be a case of where the zombies are the good guys and they can't kill the bad guys. So what do they do? They’ll have to kidnap them and force them through the machine. But they also don’t have a lot of time to do it. Things will begin to fall apart, in more ways than one.
So, that’s the hero’s path. What about his counterpart, our Femme Fatale? We need a heroine, someone our hero can fall head over heels in love with and do it as the undead. How about a police woman (military police) or an ambulance driver? Perhaps he scared the s*%$ out of her while she’s on her way to the morgue. She’s going to be afraid of him, assume he’s evil. At first she might even try to destroy him. Perhaps he has a way to show her who he really is? Maybe he gets her in front of a mirror and forces her to look at his reflection, where she sees the true soul? Lots of options.
Whose body he inhabits can also play into the story, if it was a criminal, perhaps the people that killed him think they screwed up? Now they're chasing him while he's trying to get back in his body and shut down the technology? Perhaps he was an assassinated political figure, a death-row inmate or even a movie star. I like the death-row inmate. Whoa! Imagine the heroine’s reaction to that? The body he’s in could have once belonged to a real beast before execution. The world was scared of him alive, dead, well…you get the idea.
As for the sex, remember he can jump into bodies. What if he jumps into the heroine’s and he helps her go solo? A whole new way to make it a spiritual experience and avoid sex with a cadaver.
The outcome will be the HEA we all love. She falls in love with the man for who he is on the inside, only to discover later he’s not the beast he appears to be when she helps him to return to his old self. Seems like a beauty and the beast scenario with a twist. Hmm.
Okay, so that’s it. That’s where I come up with this stuff. It's all a process of sitting down, taking some of what you already know and saying what if, like one of those "chose your own adventure" stories.
Interested in the way my brain works, the way I spin a tale? For more twists of my imagination, check out my latest release, Last Flight of the Ark.
Here’s a peek at my science fiction erotic romance novel.
Blurb ~ Last Flight of the Ark:
Colonel Kaleb Titan, commander of the Ark, suffers a shipboard encounter with a little gamma radiation. It’s not all bad: his senses are heightened, his libido’s gone haywire, and he can’t keep his hands off his crew. Unfortunately, it also means a life-or-death choice that could change the fate of humankind.
Excerpt ~ Last Flight of the Ark:
He walked up on Jessica, peering over her shoulder into the cage at a snarling Sheba. The bitch caught sight of Kaleb and backed up with a whine, sinking to her belly.
“I’ll be,” Jessica muttered. “She’s submitting to you.” Her ponytail smacked him in the face as she turned. He flinched and knocked it out of his eyes.
“She’s not stupid.” He glared at Sheba, whose tail thumped against the floor. Her golden eyes studied him. “She knows I mean business.”
Jessica grinned. “I don’t think that’s it. I think she’s got a crush on you. She likes you.”
“Sheba’s the alpha female. She doesn’t submit to anyone but the alpha male. Hence the reason she bit Lobo. He’s not alpha enough.” Jessica eyed Kaleb. “Apparently you are, sir.”
“Will she let me in the cage?”
Jessica shrugged. “She’s not growling, and we’ve got to try something. I’d hate to tranq her again. Use that catchpole over there with the loop in the end.”
He nodded and snagged the pole. One way or another, someone had to go in there. If Sheba liked him, it might as well be him. “Open the door when I say and get the tranq gun in case she gets ugly. First sign of aggression, put her out. I’d rather keep my arm.” He’d request they import another if this didn’t go well. He eyed the wolf. “Sorry, sweetheart, I have priorities. Just be a good girl, and everything will be fine.”
Jessica loaded a cartridge into the gun. “Ready?”
Kaleb nodded and Jessica opened the door. He stepped inside and it clanged shut behind him. “Hey, girl.”
With a growl that sounded more like a roar, Sheba launched from the corner. Her paws landed on his chest, knocking him to the floor. Kaleb only had seconds to register her open jaws and large teeth. He threw his forearm over his throat. Sheba latched on, sinking into flesh. A crunch and then sharp pain shot up his arm. Oh, God. Her teeth had pierced bone.
“Shoot her!” The bitch shook her head side to side, shredding flesh, and wouldn’t stop until she’d ripped his arm off or torn out his throat. “Anytime…ahhh.” Crunch. Easing her grip and then clamping back down on another part of his arm, she backed up and tried to pull his limb from where he’d blocked her access to his jugular. It was the wolf or him. “Kill her!” Little flickers of light swam before his eyes as pain exploded through his body. “Now!”
The tranq popped and was followed by a yelp from Sheba, who released his arm and staggered back. Blood dripped from her muzzle and stained her white fur. She swayed and dropped to the floor with a snort. Her front paw dug at air as she fought the drug.
“Omigod.” Jessica threw the door open and rushed to his side. “You okay?”
Kaleb glanced at his blood-soaked sleeve. “She likes me, huh?” He cringed as pain radiated from his fingers to his shoulder. Last time he’d trust a smiling female. They were all trouble.
Jessica helped him to sit up and ripped his sleeve open, staring at the bite. Blood pumped from the wound and formed a puddle on the floor. “Can you walk to the med-bay?”
“Does it look like she bit my leg?” he snarled.
Out in print, Sept 2013.
For more about my books, please stop by my website, www.authordljackson.com
D. L. Jackson