Thomas Locke

On Writing Books in a Series

Behind the Mind of author, Thomas LockeRecruits is book 1 in a three-book sci-fi series for young adults. Readers often ask me how I come up with the storylines for the second and third books.

Before I begin writing the second or third book in any series, I ask myself two questions that twine together like braids:

  1. How do I raise the stakes?
  2. How do I deepen the reader’s bond to the central characters?

So, how do I raise the stakes when the hero essentially saves the world?

I’m not telling. No way. I just finished writing the second story in the Recruits series, and my editor says it’s even better than the first one. And that’s all I’m going to reveal… until next year.

But I will say how I got there. I started by looking at the twins.

By the end of book 1, Sean and Dillon have become really good friends. They are growing up. Becoming young men, and facing all the mysteries that come with trying to decide what to do with life and talent and energy and the gift of the coming new day. So I listened to them let them tell me what they wanted to do.

Pre-Order Recruits

Recruits releases February 14, 2017. Click here to pre-order your copy from your favorite online bookseller.

Recruits by Thomas Locke

Romantic Twists in ‘Recruits’

Recruits by Thomas LockeIn Recruits, my upcoming sci-fi novel for young adults, 17-year-old twins fall in love. There are three issues at work in this scenario.

First, everybody loves a good romantic angle. Well, okay. I love a great romance. I love how it spices up even the taut friction of a solid thriller.

Second, it was two guys, both trying to work out who they were. The romance of Dillon, who came to it first, is a means of solidifying the personality of the more vulnerable twin.

Dillon is the fighter. But he’s also the guy who doesn’t quite know how to express himself, or think about himself. He’s lonely, he’s hurting, and he’s not complete. The romance becomes the mirror he needs.

The thinker of the twins, Sean, is never lonelier than when Dillon finds a girl and he does not.

Sean is cast into the impossible role of needing to be happy and support his brother, when he is hungry to have the same type of relationship that Dillon has.

He yearns for Dillon’s girlfriend, and wishes she had a twin. It is an impossible situation, and yet Sean grows through it.

The third issue has two segments:

Every early relationship is THE relationship. There are no casual first loves. They don’t come in half measures. If they do, it’s because of an internal wounded state that creates havoc when the young person first encounters deep emotional feelings for the opposite sex.

That is not my opinion. This is a core component of counseling for teens.

And here’s the kicker… A basic rule of psychiatric studies is this:

The strongest friendships within marriages are generally forged between two people who meet young, marry young, and manage to stay in love.

My favorite scene from Recruits

There is a moment when Sean, the man, is revealed for the first time. He has returned to the class where they are being trained as interstellar travelers.

It is a very hard moment for him. His brother is in love. Their lives are being torn apart and reshaped, much of it good and much of it very hard. Sean is as alone as he has ever been in his entire life.

Then his newfound girlfriend arrives. Up to this point, he has been the fumbling teen. He speaks well with her, better than he ever has with a girl. But it is all superficial.

And then, in that moment, they have their first argument. It really doesn’t mean much as a quarrel, except that Sean is forced to admit that he has no idea what is going on. He can’t handle all this, he can’t even define it; his emotions are a whirlwind…

And she comforts him.

Sean has never known this before. Not the vulnerability required to arrive at this juncture, nor the gift of caring at such a soul-deep level.

I found myself caring so much for them at this point. I hope it comes through with the readers as well.

Pre-Order Recruits

Recruits releases February 14, 2017 (Valentine’s Day. Ironic?). Click here to pre-order your copy from your favorite online bookseller.

Behind the Scenes of ‘Recruits’ Sci-Fi Novel

Behind the Mind of author, Thomas LockeVery early in my career, I wrote three YA sci-fi novels using the Thomas Locke pen-name. A couple of years later, Bethany House Publishers decided the stories had been successful enough to re-issue the trilogy as one big fat book, Dream Voyagers.

I had plans in place to continue with a new series. Then Janette Oke and I began working on a series together, and there simply wasn’t time to do both. So I set it aside, fearing that it might be for good. Who knew?

Fast forward sixteen years.

This fall, I spoke at a writers conference in Pennsylvania. A young woman came up to me afterwards and said she had grown up with Dream Voyagers as her favorite novel. She had taken one of the concepts from that book and fashioned it into the core element for her own novel, which had just been published.

I was thrilled beyond words.

My inspiration for Recruits

Recruits by Thomas LockeThis whole idea for a YA series called Recruits grew out of one question, which I woke up one early morning asking myself. (A perfect example of a highly skewed brain.)

What would happen if humanity had been established on a number of planets, and only now had reached the point to reconnect? 

Obviously the first answer was, our distant cousins drop in for a visit on space ships. But what if they hadn’t known about us either, and then there is this talent that’s discovered, one that allows certain people to transit between planets…

By this point I was up and dressed and typing fast as my poor fingers would go, trying to get some fragment of this tsunami of images down while they were still crystal clear.

Which they were.

That happens sometimes; one concept just springs full-blown into a whole story.

Simple, right?

As far as the characters themselves, I actually did not know who would be the key people until I started writing. That happens sometimes.

When I sat down in that pre-dawn hour and began work on this concept, I knew Sean and Dillon. I knew them. They were real; I heard them talk; I saw how they were together. How each twin struggled to find his own identity and yet how deeply bonded they remained, even when they fought. It was one of the most remarkable creative experiences I have ever known.

This was the first in my entire career when I met twins in such a way. I have only had one set of identical twins as friends, and that was during high school. I still remember the struggle they had between searching out who they were, and wanting to remain close to their brother, even when it was at the worst. And there were a lot of “worsts.”

The only way I can describe my creation of identical twins is, natural. I did not actually “create” these characters at all. Rather, I described people who are living entities inside my mind and heart.

Note, I did not say they “lived.” There is no past tense here. I have recently started work on the sequel to Recruits, titled Renegades, and Sean and Dillon remain as close and bonded with me as on that very first dawn.

The Creative Process Behind Recruits

When I first started writing for young adults, a successful author of fiction for teen girls told me: “The one rule of writing good YA is to treat the entire book as a hundred-yard dash. Start fast; go faster.”

She didn’t mean that every scene has to have action. Rather, every component of the story has to be driven by urgency and big events.

I really like this. I mean, not just as a writer. I like this as a reader.

Certain elements of every good story galvanize the creative process. For Recruits, the first two “big bangs” were the train station and Carver, the colonel who serves as the twins’ first instructor.

In many cases, I don’t know what the first pages or chapters will look like until I am well into writing the story. Then when that “big bang” arrives, it carries a sense of, WOW, THIS IS GREAT. I have to feel this before I can write the first chapter.

In a couple of cases, I have actually completed the entire first draft, all except for those vital first ten or twenty pages, before that WOW arrived.

In the case of Recruits, however, I started with the “wow.” The bang was just sitting there, waiting for me to begin writing.

The twins, who grew up in a very difficult home environment, were in their bedrooms, mentally escaping into a world where a tubular train station with modulated gravity sends passengers off to a world they knew – they just knew – was out there waiting for them.

Then Carver shows up, and the first thing he tells them is, “Guys, the train station is real, and if you want, you can go there.”

Wow.

Pre-order Your Copy

Recruits releases February 14, 2017. Visit my website to pre-order your copy from your favorite online bookseller.

How I Weave the Element of Danger Into my Techno-Thriller, ‘Flash Point’

In my new techno-thriller, Flash Point, some of the voyagers “ascend” to a realm beyond physical confines. When they return, they’re possessed by a reptilian-like beast.

How I Weave the Element of Danger Into my Techno-Thriller, ‘Flash Point’ | TLocke.comMy purpose in introducing this inhuman element of evil was straightforward. I wanted to rock the readers’ world.

The issue was how to introduce an element of danger within this different realm. For the danger to be real, to have the biggest impact, it needed to transition from the relatively limited framework of one explorer of this new realm, to the here and now.

When I first came up with the monster concept, it actually scared me. So much so that I needed weeks and weeks to come to terms with what it meant before I could write the scenes.

I vividly remember writing that first scene. The monsters themselves were not the issue. The issue was how to create a living, breathing threat that linked this ephemeral world with the reality that surrounds us.

So I created a scenario in which a group of techies explore a new realm where their awareness extends beyond the physical confines. Suddenly, they are brought face-to-face with this other reality. And this reality is present because of their motives.

They seek to use this new extension of awareness as a means of robbing secrets. Their actions are as dark as their motivation.

And as a result, what they find is an element of darkness and danger. This is why I was scared.

How a Political Hot Button Can Electrify Readers in the Opening Pages of Your Novel

Recreational marijuana is a “smoking” hot topic these days, particularly in Colorado and Washington, which were the first two states to legalize its recreational use.

How a Political Hot Button Can Electrify Readers in the Opening Pages of Your Novel | TLocke.comWhen I first read about the total chaos surrounding the “legal pot” issue, I thought, hmmmmm…

I was looking for a hot topic, something that would electrify readers in the opening pages of Flash Point. My protagonist, Lena, is not just some financial analyst working on just another boring acquisition. Yawn.

But the story is not about pot. It is about Lena being forced into a completely uncomfortable position, guided by this voice in her head that tells her to take a step off the cliff and land… Where?

This, to me, personifies so much about our walk in faith. The impossible step, against all the incredible and logical reasons to stay with the tried and true.

Like, for instance, a young believer becoming convinced that he is being called to leave behind a successful business career and become a novelist. Why does that sound so familiar?

Why Book #3 in Legends of the Realm Series is on Hold

I realize that some of you may be expecting book #3 in the Legends of the Realm fantasy series, following up on the events in Emissary and Merchant of Alyss.

Instead, my publisher, Revell, is launching an entirely new Young Adult Sci-Fi series, Recruits.

Recruits by Thomas LockeThe team at Revell and I had a series of long discussions about the timing of book #3 in the Legends of the Realm series.

We decided that we needed to give the film project one more year. The issue, as with so many independent film projects, is funding.

Twice now it appeared that things were in place, only to fall apart. It still may happen, though. There are a number of groups who very much want to see it move ahead.

Because of that, we opted to wait on book #3. The greatest thing that could happen just now – the absolute greatest – would be for the film to go into production with a major star, and match its initial publicity with the launch of the new story.

Let me just add one thing. If that does indeed happen, this third book will not be the end to the series. I have too much else I want to say, and too many fresh ideas.

I’m really excited about the launch of Recruits, a sci-fi series for YA readers. The first book in that series, also titled Recruits, releases February 14, 2017.  I think adults will love it, too!

Stay tuned; I’ll be revealing lots of behind-the-scenes info about Recruits in upcoming blog posts.

How to Write Multiple Points-of-View in a Novel

How to write multiple POV in a novel | Thomas Locke | TLocke.comReaders often ask how I develop multiple points-of-view in a story. In this blog post, I’ll use Flash Point as an example, since it includes three parallel storylines (Lena’s, Brett’s, and Reese’s), which eventually intersect.

The real challenge for new writers in having a dueling point-of view (POV) is establishing clear and distinctively different characters.

It is not just that these people experience the events. Their internal differences are key to making this ‘real.’ They must have different emotional backgrounds, and actually see the events differently.

Think of a couple in a loving relationship. The fact that they desperately want it all to work, and love each other deeply, and are willing to make drastic changes to their life’s patterns, does not change the simple fact that they see almost every event that occurs to them both in completely different lights. This is based upon their emotional makeup and their backgrounds. The same thing must happen with characters.

If the author can do this, the result is a far deeper level of forward momentum and story tension.

Three POVs in Flash Point

In Flash Point, there are three distinct POVs—and part of what creates potency in the climax is how at the beginning of the story these characters are completely unconnected. Their aims are different, and their courses are separate from one another. Gradually, though, the plot draws them onto parallel courses.

Let me explain the role these three points of view play:

Lena Fennan

Scene from Flash Point by Thomas LockeLena is a Wall Street financial analyst, a brilliant woman whose entire life is thrown off track by this voice from beyond – HER OWN VOICE – now talking to her, offering not just suggestions but clear directions on actions that make no logical sense whatsoever.

This is my joy in early plotting: to place characters in situations that display their internal fault lines (thus, the title of this series: Fault Lines). Life does that to us all the time, and so there is an immediate resonance when it happens to a character.

Brett Riffkind

A scene from Flash Point by Thomas LockeBrett was a bad boy. He sold out his team. He paid the price, almost died, was brought back by the man Brett disliked most in the world because he stole the girl Brett loved. Which was really the reason why Brett allowed himself to be lured by the dark side.

All this is universal. And in many cases, that is what makes for a great pivotal character. Pivotal here refers to a character that may be good, may be bad, but really is both.

In the book’s early scenes, Brett is doing penance. Nobody asked him to do this. He has no logical reason for it. But his life was effectively destroyed by all his wrong moves.

So he is serving others and doing the best he can to take nothing for himself. He does not see himself as moving beyond this stage. Which in many respects is the worst penance of all.

I have seen a number of such people in real life. They have gone to prison, they did the crime and the time, but upon release they are caught in a limbo that is at least partly of their own making.

What Brett does not realize is, the first scene of this book is intended as his release. And this creates the drama. The real hook between the audience and Brett.

This man has apologized in word and deed. He has readied himself. He does not know it yet, but he is about to launch himself, his love life, and his professional career, into high-altitude orbit. And take the audience with him.

Reese Clawson

Now, this is one bad lady. The reader knows it. And those who read Trial Run know Reese for what she is, a woman without a moral compass.

So the question here is, how to make a character that we can still care for?

And that is what the early scenes with Reese are all about. We know she’s dark, she’s bad, and yet we want secretly her to win.

So many of the early readers of Flash Point have confessed that secretly they liked Reese best of all. That is what can happen with a successful anti-hero. They hold a magnetism that we would never allow ourselves in real life. But here we, the audience, can involve ourselves in a dark element in utter safety.

The First Inciting Incident

So where does this leave us? And this is the crucial element for strong story.

Once the central characters with POVs are established and their emotional realms are solid… once the audience is hooked in tightly… that is the point where we introduce THE FIRST INCITING INCIDENT.

Before this point, all the characters are SELF-DIRECTED. They go their own way.

Then something happens. Something big. An explosive event, or series of events.

And at this point, the characters are required to DECLARE THEMSELVES.

This is one of those points where a good story and reality no longer connect. But forget logic, folks. This is about creating a plot that the audience connects with at a visceral level.

At this first explosive moment, the characters are required to either be part of the solution – as in, working towards fulfilling the big climax – or they are opposed to it.

Before this point, they are selfish; they go their own way; they are not connected.

After this point, they may still be disconnected, but we begin to see how they are going to come together. How the climax will be shaped. What the big issue is, and on which side of the line each POV character stands.

This is the key plot element. Once you have the characters clearly drawn from the emotional level, the author is free to draw them together in an unexpected and explosive fashion.

How I draft multiple POVs

When I draft a story, generally, I write through an emotion. Sometimes this is just one scene; other times it can be as much as a quarter of the entire book. Then I go back and fasten upon the emotion of the next character, and take that to the logical point of closure.

Multiple POV can work in every genre of story

So long as the emotional structure of the characters are strong and clearly different from one another, this technique works with every genre of story.

In my work with students, this technique can be extremely helpful. Through multiple POVs they not only learn how to create stronger characters, but also how to completely separate the story-telling from the story-TELLER. This tiny shift is elemental to making a story work.

At no point, at no time, may the story be told from the author’s point-of-view. The author cannot ever reveal himself or herself as the overseer.

All action, all emotions, all events, all tension, all explanations, every sentence and jot and comma and phrase. Everything has to be revealed through a character.

‘Explosive,’ says Trial Run reviewer

Today, I’m featuring three reader reviews of Flash Point, from Anne Rightler, Natalie Walters, and Benjamin Liles. Be sure to click the link next to each reviewer’s name to read his or her full review.

A scene from Flash Point | Thomas LockeAnne Rightler, on Goodreads:

Flash Point, second in the Fault Lines series by Thomas Locke, is a wonderful read! Action-packed and intense, this techno-thriller keeps the reader on the edge of the seat anticipating what will come next.

The characters are strong and evocative. Lena, a banking analyst, has an intelligent intensity that draws other to her and yet she seems to have abandoned logic.

Brett, a neurophysicist, has been on a macabre death watch for the last year.

Reese is a convict, maybe even a psychopath, who has fallen far and landed hard.

The author, Thomas Locke, masterfully weaves their stories together as the adventures intensify and conflicts escalate to a fearsome showdown. Neuropathways are explored as voyagers journey into the unknown, redefining boundaries.

What will these supposedly scientific journeys reveal that might take international intrigue to a whole new level? And who is behind the science? Follow the money!

What would you do to have a chance at happiness? Is it worth the sacrifice or is it just about survival?

Locke gives readers another explosive story. Not to be missed.

Natalie Walters, on her blog:

The boundaries of suspense and supernatural cross in book 2 of the Fault Lines series.

Techno-thriller is not usually my choice for stories but I couldn’t resist when it comes to Thomas Locke’s writing. And this book probably delivers exactly what readers of this genre love. Mind-bending realities, some supernatural warfare, and all of it surrounds technology that is “other-worldly.”

Quote from TRIAL RUN, a techno-thriller by Thomas LockeBenjamin Liles, on Goodreads

In the premise of being and keeping this honest I have to admit I am a bit of a scientist myself. I truly believe that Thomas Locke has done a great deal of research both in quantum physics as well as in biology. It isn’t just my assumption that he has done this, but it’s based on the terminology he uses.

As in the case with Trial Run, Locke’s first book in the Fault Lines series, the characters are well-rounded, believable and have a great care and concern for one another, and this includes that for those who are on the offense (the bad guys).

Lena Fennan is a Wall Street junior analyst working for a major banking firm. She has acquired the means to not just change her own life but that of others who are struggling as well. She is given an invitation to do more, to be more and she finds the events exciting and thrilling, and yet she finds it all can tear her apart in a moment.

A secretive, clandestine organization helps with the release of Reese Clawson and she’s gripped by a bad case of revenge for those who destroyed her, including Charlie Hazard.

What neither woman knows could reshape them either to the point of oblivion or push them past a flash point in their lives.

Considering the fact I love the sciences and how well written this book is by Thomas Locke I had to give it five stars.

To achieve the impossible, we must first change our perspective

In Trial Run and Flash Point, two of the characters, Trent and Lena, “hear” their future selves giving them instructions. They are the only characters who have this ability without using technology. Let me explain why.

A scene from Flash Point, Thomas Locke's techno thrillerWhen I started work on the Fault Lines techno-thriller series, one of the issues that dominated my thinking was how so much of our culture’s and nation’s perspective is dominated by the negative.

I wondered: What if our own abilities are being impacted by this negativity?

What if we were able to actually expand beyond our current abilities and horizons simply by taking a more positive perspective? 

What if we are actually limiting ourselves by dimming our view of the horizon?

These questions resonated with me on a variety of levels. So the question was, how to make this work in story form.

The result was a set of boundaries that are based upon that one unspoken ‘fact’: To achieve the impossible, we must first change our perspective.

And that is all I will say at the moment. Because Trent and Lena’s initial experiences hint at secrets that will be unveiled in books 3 and 4.

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