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JAYE WELLS is a USA Today-bestselling author of urban fantasy and speculative crime fiction. Raised by booksellers, she loved reading books from a very young age. That gateway drug eventually led to a full-blown writing addiction. When she’s not chasing the word dragon, she loves to travel, drink good bourbon and do things that scare her so she can put them in her books. Jaye lives in Texas. You can find her on Facebook, Twitter, and at jayewells.com.
I’m happy to have Jaye back on the blog. Not only is she an amazing writer, she’s fun to hang out with too.
Margie Asks Jaye: Tell us about Prospero’s War and the first book in the series—Dirty Magic.
The Prospero’s War series is about what would happen if instead of drugs, magic potions were sold illegally on the streets. The main character is an ambitious named Kate Prospero, and in the first book, DIRTY MAGIC, she gets assigned to a Magic Enforcement Agency task force that is trying to bring down the major covens that supply and sell dirty magic on the streets.
The series combines urban fantasy with police procedural, and is set in a fictional Rust Belt town of Babylon, Ohio. It’s a world where clean magic is convenient but expensive and used in lots of everyday situations, like potion-fueled cars, and dirty magic is cheap but dangerous and feeds people’s addictions for easy fixes to life’s problems.
The name of the series refers to both the MEA’s war on dirty magic, as well as Kate’s own internal war over her relationship to her own past as a member of a coven.
Margie Chimes In: I love Jaye’s brain! I’ve had the fun of working with Jaye’s uber-cool brain in lots of online classes and in two Immersion Master Classes. Why take the time to do a second 4 ½ day immersion class?
Even though I’ve published several novels, I firmly believe that writing is a craft that is never fully mastered. My second immersion took me even further into more advanced deep editing techniques. I hope to take a third Immersion class with Margie as soon as I can because I learn something new every time.
I also find that it’s easy under deadline to get lazy with the techniques, and a refresher reminds me how important it is to do the extra work to make the words sing.
Margie Chimes In: You’re smart. And your smart take-the-time-to-deep-edit writing craft shows in your writing. Here’s what people are saying about Dirty Magic.
“Jaye Wells has created a fresh, magical world full of potion junkies & alchemists that promises to break new ground in paranormal thrillers.” – Laurell K. Hamilton
“Kate Prospero is my new favorite heroine—imperfect, haunted, driven, and dangerous.” – Kevin Hearne, NYT Bestselling Author of The Iron Druid Chronicles
“Dirty Magic showcases seasoned pro, Wells, at the top of her game, and establishes newcomer Kate Prospero as the urban fantasy heroine to beat.” – Vicki Pettersson, NYT Bestelling Author of The Signs of the Zodiac series
Margie Asks Jaye: Those are impressive endorsements from impressive sources. You’ve worked hard to put out an incredible book. What are some deep editing tools you learned from me and how do you use them?
Jaye Responds: Whether it’s using rhetorical devices to punch up my word craft, or pulling out highlighters (Margie’s EDITS System)to make sure my scenes are well-balanced, or using tricks like backloading to increase tension, I’m always digging into my Lawson Bag O’ Tricks. I’ve found that my first drafts are stronger because yourlessons have trained me to write for strong emotions rather than just edit for them.
Margie Chimes In: Yay! You’re deep editing in your mind in your first drafts. You’re fixing things before they get on the screen. Just how deep editing is designed to work. You also use strong emotions. That’s smart. Emotions areessential for hooking the reader. Check out this power Internalization from Dirty Magic.
I hardened the part of me that was still tender after all these years.
Jaye’s good at writing visceral reactions too. Read the examples below.
I stood and walked away on wooden legs.
The potion patch had worn off, but my adrenaline was pounding like lightning through my veins.
My teeth clenched and a hot rush of blood coursed through my veins.
A quickening began in my middle and expanded outward, heating my limbs and hardening my resolve.
Jaye writes urban fantasy and the worlds she builds are asexciting as the characters she creates. Instead of using ordinary character descriptions, Jaye builds a person the way she builds a world—with fresh and cadence-driven descriptions. Here are a few of her first-impression descriptions from her main character, Kate’s, point of view.
Stress lines permanently bracketed Eldritch’s mouth. His bald pate glowed dully under the harsh fluorescent lights. The desk hid a paunch that betrayed a lifelong love affair with fried dough, but one would be unwise to mistake his generous midsection for a sign of weakness.
Her brown hair was cut in a no-nonsense bob. The lines between her brows told me they were used to frowning, and the steel in her gaze hinted at a razor-blade tongue.
She wore a dress over her furry body that tented her thin frame like a muumuu. The floral catastrophe screamed Goodwill donation box.
Once Jaye’s introduced a character, she keeps building him. One way to do that is by using dialogue and body language cues like the ones below.
“Go.” His voice was quiet but held a thin edge of steel.
“That’s too bad.” He took a too-casual sip from his can of Excalabur, the most popular brand of energy potion.
Gardner’s expression went tense, like she’d hoped I would have forgotten about that.
When he finally looked up, his eyes were shiny and red-rimmed.
Many times authors will use the phrase—she/he smiled. Why leave the smile there when you can use that smile to deepen character? Look at Jaye’s smiles.
He smiled self-consciously, an expression that took years off his face.
His smile transformed his face from boyish to almost-mannish.
In addition to the devices above, Jaye also uses a few other tricks, like humor hits and alliteration to pull the reader into the story.
I needed a hot shower and a stiff drink—preferably at the same time.
Cops were worse than housewives when it came to gossip.
The lightning-fast change in topic nearly gave me whiplash.
Metal shrieked and surrendered.
I could see Mez, but occasionally the air sizzled with the static of spent magic from one of his party favors.
Margie Asks Jaye: What do you think your strengths were going into this series based on some of the techniques I teach? Do you have any examples?
Jaye Responds: Rhetorical devices, cadence, using power words, incorporating all the senses, and backloading are my secret weapons. The first three lines of the book combined cadence, power words, backloading, onomatopoeia, assonance, polysyndeton, as well as three sense: sight, sound, and smell.
Openings can kill a novel or kick it out of the park. I'm teaching a class on openings in May--A Deep Editing Guide to Making Your Openings Pop.
Here’s Jaye’s opening to Dirty Magic.
“It was just another f***ed up night in the Cauldron. Potion junkies huddled in shadowy corners with their ampoules and pipes and needles. The occasional flick of a lighter’s flame illuminated their dirty, desperate faces, and the air sizzled with the ozone scent of spent magic.”
Awesome. Awesome. Awesome. You got me with the first line. First lines are critical. Openings are critical. Not just on page one but in every chapter.
Thank you, Jaye, for sharing Dirty Magic. Readers, don’t forget to leave a comment for a chance to win an ebook from Jaye and a lecture packet from me.