2016 Reading Challenge: MY BOOK

I’m sure you’ve noticed by now that I’m in the midst of a mad dash to complete my 2016 reading challenge. I finished two more books over the weekend to see if I can ultimately complete it.

But today I’m talking about MY BOOK. I wonder if I’m making history right now by reviewing my own work. Hm. Anyway, let’s go.

Divided Within is set in and around Houston and follows Andrew Banks as he works his first case as a private investigator. His first client happens to be a teenage girl who suspects there’s something really wrong between her parents that they aren’t telling her about, only it’s much worse than she could have imagined.

A little history before I get into the good stuff. I wrote the book over the course of the first months immediately after I graduated from college in 2013.

Although it’s my own work, I still had problems with it. The first thing I noticed is I obviously forgot how to use commas. Seriously. I’m not sure what was going on. There were commas where there should have been periods and then there was nothing where there should have been commas. Ugh.

The other thing I didn’t really like after my reread was the language. It was unoriginal. It’s a crime novel, but I felt I used cussing at weird points in the story. I don’t feel like it worked.

The other thing that I definitely recognize, though I still don’t have a problem with is the story. I won’t get into the specifics because some of you all might actually want to give it a read now, but one of the complaints I received when I first published the book was that the story was unbelievable. And it is. But I’ll keep saying it over and over again that I don’t read any fiction to read something that’s entirely realistic. If that’s what I want then I’ll watch the news.

After more than three years my favorite aspect of the book is still Andrew and Sydney. I found a few points in which I didn’t like their dialogue, but their relationship is great. So many detectives have a new love interest every other book, but not Banks. You know that just from reading this first book.

I still find it crazy that I wrote this thing, but I did and it’s mine. It satisfied the requirement to read a self-published book for my 2016 reading challenge.

Have YOU read it!? Have you ever tried to review your own work?

Some Good News!

Well, kind of.

I know what my next story is going to be! Most of y’all know that I haven’t been writing AT ALL recently. I think I last put words to paper in May…of 2014. Yikes. This has been a long time coming. So now you’re probably wondering what I plan on writing, right?

Welp. I’m going with my original idea. But I bet YOU weren’t around when I wrote posts all about it last year. Except I’m going to work on Andrew a bit. I want potential readers to think of him as more than just a PI.

I’ll have three days off this week. Who knows? Maybe I’ll get started.

What’s the longest you’ve gone without writing? I’m nearing the two year mark.

I Think it’s Time to Revisit the WIP

Do y’all remember that I originally started this blog to document my progress as I wrote my first book? Or that I actually started writing my second shortly after finishing my first? Yeah…about that. You likely also know that I haven’t even glanced at my WIP in many months. But I think it’s time.

I’ve known for several months now that I’d revisit my story at the start of 2015. I don’t have a particular reason for waiting so long, but I had no reason to look back any sooner. See, I’m in no rush. I’m not over here thinking I’m writing the greatest novel that no one will ever know about. I’m just writing along and seeing where it takes me.

Let’s refresh just a bit. My current WIP is my second book around Andrew Banks. Someone who is mildly controversial. (I’m poking fun at some of my reviewers). He’s a Houston area PI and he has this girlfriend who goes by the name of Sydney. Ha. That’s all. But really, I’m something like 30k words in and I stopped just as Andrew goes on a trip out of the city following a lead.

But enough about that, what are you currently working on? Book one? Book two? Book 38?

Do Your Characters Sleep?

sleeping_puppy-1

Photo Credit

Seems like an odd question, right?

I was lying in bed just a few minutes ago when I thought of this topic. I know for certain that James Patterson’s characters sleep. Because Detective Alex Cross is often woken from his sleep to get to a scene or by something happening inside his own home. I also think Spenser and Harry Bosch sleep in their stories. But that’s about all I could come up with. Three characters written by three different authors.

Isn’t that just a little odd? Sleeping is something that everyone must do, but it doesn’t happen often in books. At least not the ones I’m reading. I know Andrew sleeps in my book. I think I probably ended three chapters with him going to sleep after a long day. And that’s really what I’m talking about here. I’m not expecting to have these characters sleep in every chapter or something. But I do think it’s possible that authors sometimes forget that these are supposed to be people. Sure there fictional, but how many characters do we see coming to TV or movies every year?

Just a thought.

Do your characters sleep?

Ending Your Story

be380d8e7e68607ce2971a83cfb58071

Photo Credit: Pinterest

We’re all writers here, right? I know most of you have several manuscripts complete at the moment. Some of you probably have dozens. Well then that means you have some experience bringing your stories to a close.

Before I begin, I first want to say that I have no issue with happy endings. Fiction is not supposed to be 100% believable, otherwise how could you have all the crime series that never seem to end? Now let’s talk about ending your story. Personally, I’m a big fan of the ending that fits. So if the main character must lose someone close to him/her, then I’m okay with that. If the main character gets seriously injured in heroic fashion, then I’m okay with that. Or even if the story leaves you with a cliffhanger. I have no issue with any of these as long as it fits.

I think writers can be guilty of writing a happy ending just for the sake of doing so, at times. I’d say that’s the only issue I’ve had with story endings. The ones that leave you scratching your head like “whaa?”and thinking how in the heck did the author come up with that. I’ve never once had an issue with a story ending in a manner that forces you to read the next book in the series. Or ending badly for a main character in the book. I honestly think it’s more difficult to write these kinds of endings. Because readers have almost come to expect a positive resolution to the events throughout the book.

When it comes to my own writing, well I have just the one story that certainly had a happy ending. But I have every intention of continuing the series and absolutely throwing in some curve balls when it comes to the endings. Am I going to have Andrew killed in a shootout with a bad guy during his last case? Eh, probably not because I don’t want him to go out like that. But you never know, right?

What about you? In your writing do you have any preference when it comes to endings? Or perhaps in your reading.

PS: I apologize for not replying to comments at all recently. I have a giant orange number staring me in the face right now of pending comments. I’m going to do something about this. Finally. But I always read what you guys say. Always.

The Reader in Me

I missed another post yesterday, well maybe to you I missed it, I had plenty of time to write one and several ideas but I just didn’t feel like it. So I don’t think I missed anything more than I just didn’t do it. But that’s neither here nor there. I have a simple one for you all today. Y’all know I like writing posts in which I get to answer questions about my reading or books or whatever. Wellllll I have another set for you guys to read. Each of the other two times I’ve written this type of post I’ve had a number of bloggers copy me, so one of you needs to continue that tradition.

Okay. Might as well get started. Oh, I found these questions here. I’ll do the first ten today and the last ten tomorrow.

1. Which book has been on your shelves the longest?

Ooooh. This is actually a tough one to answer. I know for sure that I’ve had some books at least since my sophomore year of high school. I’ve probably had a couple handfuls since before then. Okay. I’m going to have to take a wild guess and say that the book that I THINK has been on my shelves the longest is A Deadly Game of Magic by Joan Lowery Nixon. I have another of her novels that I read right around the same time that actually won an Edgar. Didn’t even know.

2. What is your current read, last read, and book you’ll read next?

Don’t really have an answer for any of the above.

3. What book did everyone like and you hated?

I’m pretty sure I’m the only one in the history on the universe who did not like this book. I’ve written about it over and over and even dedicated a full post to it back in March. Sorry, Mr. Dahl. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

4. Which book do you keep telling yourself you’ll read but probably won’t?

The Bible. Ha. Just kidding. I’ll never read that. No matter what reasons people give me. Hmmm. I don’t think I have an answer for this one. Cause I’ll read a book if I want to and won’t if I don’t. Pretty simple.

5. Which book are you saving for “retirement”?

Uhh what exactly does this even mean? Is it supposed to be a book I’m saving for years and years from now? Or…I don’t even know. Anyway, I’ll just say Potter. Cause when the movies ended I vowed to wait awhile before actually starting the books. Cause once I finish them there’s no going back, the entire phenomenon would be over. I know there are millions of people like me in that I grew up with Harry, Ron, and Hermione. The first movie was released when I was ten. You see what I mean. So I’m saving the series for forever. Although I have now read the first and have the second right here next to me. Once I get to book seven I imagine that I’ll wait at least a year before actually reading it. Cause then I’ll be done and  I’ll no longer have anything more I can take away from the series that haven’t already. I know a lot of people reread the full series every year, but I know I won’t be doing that. Of course, with all that being said, I read THG trilogy in a really short span and finished the series shortly after the first movie was released. Eh.

6. Last page: Read it first or wait til the end?

Oh boy. I read mysteries. Where’s the mystery in reading the last page of a book before actually reading the book? Makes no sense. Okay. Let me go pay $13 to go to the movies and walk in during the final five minutes. Yep. No. Literally the dumbest thing I know readers do is reading the last page first.

7. Acknowledgements: waste of ink and paper or interesting aside?

The person who created these questions has obviously never written a book. To say that the Acknowledgements section of a book is a waste of paper and ink (you’re talking pennies) is simply moronic. This is the kind of person who thinks one person writes a book. This is the kind of person who has no respect for what authors and writers do. This is the kind of person who says “Oh, so you just stay home and write?” This is the kind of person who has never written anything of substance in their life. I almost always skip the Acknowledgements, but as someone who has gotten to write just one Acknowledgements section I can tell you that I spent quite some time on those few pages and every person mentioned helped with the book. I very much hope that not a single one of you who reads this will think they’re a waste of ink and paper. Then you fall into the category I mentioned above.

8. Which book character would you switch places with?

Easy. My own. Andrew Banks. Perfect girl. Perfect job. Pretty intelligent. Strong physique. Helps people.

9. Do you have a book that reminds you of something specific in your life?

No. I don’t know how many times I have to say that I read because I like reading and because it’s the greatest form of entertainment we have today. Whatever I have going on in my life has absolutely nothing to do with what I read. I’m not trying to cope or deal or get away, I just want to read my books without someone thinking that I have some motive for doing so.

10. Name a book you acquired in some interesting way?

I buy all my books. Nothing special about it.

Okay.  I rather enjoyed answering these questions. Had to really think about a few and then had those that were pointless, as usual. Feel free to go ahead and answer them yourself or let me know what you think of my answers.

Knowing Your Audience

whos-your-target1

Photo Credit: Images USA

How well do you know the target audience for your book(s)? I’m of course not meaning how well do you know individual readers of your work, I’m talking about the demographic that reads books similar to yours over and over again. I’d like to think I know mine fairly well. And honestly, I’m sitting here trying to remember if I’ve written about this before now and I have no idea. So if you’re reading this thinking that you’ve read it before, well you’re not in the Twilight Zone. Or maybe we both are? Yikes.

Let me tell you what some very keen observations have told me about my target audience. Have you ever been to an author signing? Well they’re pretty cool if you’re not among hundreds of people. I’ve been to a few. Both crime writers. Both NYT bestsellers as of today. I met Steve Hamilton and T. Jefferson Parker. I have all but just a couple of their books. But I’m not here to talk about the events or what those two were like, I want to tell you about what I saw there.

This is very unscientific, but you use what you can, right? I would say both events were attended by maybe 50 people. It’s hard to say because the store changed its layout sometime in the months between these two events. Anyway, what I saw was approximately 90% White women. Who were aged 50+. And based on nothing at all, who I thought were college educated. I could probably come up with some other characteristics, but that’s all I focus on.

And I’m thinking that this type of person is a big reader of crime novels across the country. I don’t work in a bookstore or anything like that, but I do read other blogs and I have occasionally had someone buy books from me at work. And they fit the demographic I’ve described exactly.

Now that I claim to know my target audience, now what? Well, the only way I can think that knowing this has influenced my writing is the fact that Andrew Banks is obviously white. But other than that, the whole “write for your audience” thing people say is stupid to me. I write whatever I feel like.

Two things: Do you know your target audience? And how does this affect your writing?

Why are Protagonists Always Damaged in Some Way?

Katniss-Everdeen-the-hunger-games-fan-club-30601998-530-725

Photo Credit: American Salon

Just a picture of my favorite protagonist in the history of all history to start this post.

I wanted to write this post from the perspective of a writer, but I soon realized that my perspective as a reader would force its way into the writing of this post, so you’ll get both. Let me tell you what I’m talking about when I say “damaged.” There is always something that the protagonist of a story has to deal with that makes a case more difficult to work or makes whatever goal s/he is trying to achieve that much more unattainable. But why is this? Why can’t characters be regular people who have to deal with something extraordinary during the course of the book?

In a very non-scientific analysis, I decided that I’d think of some of the series I read to see how many of the protagonists are broken in some way or another. I won’t name any of them, but let me tell what I came up with.

One guy’s mother is murdered when he’s a child and he becomes a detective. Decades later, the mother of his daughter is murdered during the course of an investigation.

Another guy is shot while on the job as a patrolman and the bullet is left inside of him due to its proximity to his heart. This is referred to in every book.

Another guy’s wife is murdered due to his work as a detective. Killer never apprehended.

Another guy’s wife is in broadcasting and after divorcing him, she starts to do whatever it takes to move up in her line of work. All while claiming she will always love him. He secures a Chief of Police job on the other side of the country after going to the interview drunk. The city figures they’ll be able to control an idiot.

Do you see my point? Sorry these are all detectives, but there are more examples I could point out from my own reading, but I have a post to write.

I’ve even been told that my character, Andrew Banks, is too squeaky clean and that he needs some damaged history, otherwise the reader is less likely to become invested in him. Huh? I mean, when I set out to write him (he’s me, which y’all should know) I did so wanting him to be different. Real. Not the guy with all the answers and being some expert at this or that. Just a regular guy who does his best at his job. And what did some of my readers say?

He’s independently wealthy.

He’s arrogant.

He’s a bad detective.

His relationship with Sydney is a joke.

He thinks he’s better as one person than an entire police department.

First off, none of these are correct. The only one that I think even warrants any kind of response is the first on the list. Some readers have come to their conclusion that he’s some rich guy parading around the city of Houston because of a very short list of things. He doesn’t charge his first client anything for working her case. He happens to wear a Polo once during the course of the book. And he doesn’t tell the reader constantly about not having any money.

I’m not going to explain away the notion that he’s independently wealthy because those are the things right there that readers have told me that make him appear so. If you think someone is wealthy because of that list, then your definition of wealth is not the same as any other. And you probably need to check your head for irregularities.

Back to my point, what makes a character more likeable just because s/he has a bad past? Because to me, a great character is a great character. Period. I won’t change my character to fit some literary expectation or whatever you want to call it, because he is who he is, and that’s all there is to it.

A Year After Graduation: My progress

One year ago today my name was announced as I walked across the stage at the Spring Commencement of the University of Houston Downtown. Before we get into what I’ve done in the 365 days since that wonderful day, let me tell you all a little about it.

I woke up extremely early. Around six. Guys, this may be regular for some of you, but I do not EVER wake up this early. I ate a rather large breakfast because the ceremony wasn’t set to begin for another four hours, and then I wouldn’t get to eat for several more after that. Then I did the only thing I could. I got ready.

About five hours later the name John Raymond Guillen, Cum Laude, was announced. I know this happens a gazillion times every year in America, but I came so close to crying on stage in front of about 1,000 graduates and like 20,000 friends and family members. It wasn’t because it was unexpected. Or because I was the first of eight siblings to make it to this day. It was simply because I’d done it. I had maybe 25-30 family members and a few friends there for me. But only three friends went to our little lunch get together afterward, and I told them I’d never forget that they were there. Because it turned into a 13-14 hour day for everyone involved. Mercedes, I love you. Grant and Nathan, same goes for you guys.

I didn’t cry during the ceremony. Or before. It wasn’t until I started reading all the graduation cards I’d gotten that I finally did. I was graduating from college and it was writing that got me to cry. Now let’s see what I’ve done since then.

I wrote a book

This is definitely something to be proud of. The day I received my author proof is still probably the second best day of my life. Behind graduation up there. And the only things that could even come close to it that may be happening within the next decade or so are my wedding day, getting an agent, and getting a publishing contract.

I started a blog

Starting a blog isn’t significant in itself, it’s the people I’ve met from blogging. You all might think I’m crazy, but I seriously love you all. Did I ever think I’d be approaching 1,000 followers, ever? No. Did I ever think I’d talk to so many great people just about everyday? No. I could name like ten of you guys who I thoroughly enjoy talking to, but I don’t want to embarrass anyone. BUT I want to name one. Mahrukh. Oh my goodness. Could you imagine if I’d never started a blog? Then I wouldn’t have found yours. Then we wouldn’t talk. I mean, it’s almost scary. I’m lucky. And so are you. 🙂

But that’s it. I wanted to have so much more by the time this day arrived. I was supposed to have my second book written by January 1. I was supposed to finish writing my current WIP and have another book written by the time 2014 came to an end. I was supposed to be working toward getting an agent by now. But I’m not. And I don’t think I have the time to write another book once I finish the one I’m working on. And I don’t know anything about agents or query letters or anything.

I’m not going to sit here and act like I’m completely disappointed with myself. I’m not. I just wanted more from the last 365 days than I’ve gotten. I need to get with it. And soon. I don’t want 2014 to end up being the year of accomplishing nothing.

I’ll leave you with some pictures.

ImageImage

ImageImageNow I need some words of encouragement from you guys.

A Letter to my Character

ImagePhoto Credit: Letters to Humanity

Okay guys, did you happen to catch the letter I posted last Monday that was sent to me from my protagonist? If not, you can quickly view that post here. Anyway, this is the follow up letter that I’m sending him with my responses to some of the concerns he raised in his initial correspondence. Take a look.

Andrew,

Yes, you can call me JohnRaymond if you like, but I’d much prefer that you call me John. Or even Mr. Guillen. After all, I did create you. I don’t see anything wrong with a little respect between the two of us. I’ll call you Andrew or Banks or whatever you like, let me know in any future correspondence.

The first point you raised in your letter is that you don’t see us being the same person like I do. Hm. I’d say that’s understandable. But I’d also refer back to something else you mentioned in your letter. You said that I gave you a moral compass that could only come from me. And you’re absolutely correct in your conclusion. All of my morals and beliefs have been transferred directly over to you. All of them. So yes, we may not be identical twins, but we most definitely ARE the same person. There’s no denying that simple fact.

You also made it a point to mention some of the great things that have been given to you. They’ve all helped you already, but the one in particular that we both know is most important is Sydney. Andrew, I’m convinced that you couldn’t be yourself without her by your side. You wouldn’t be able to do the job that you do. You would be a completely different person. I mean, if not for Sydney you wouldn’t have opened your own office. Ever. You probably wouldn’t have been able to make your way out of the Vega case. Think about what happened that night in the guest bedroom. Why do you think you were able to get out of there alive? Sydney. Period. This is another fact that cannot be questioned. She’s the very reason you do everything you do. But I’ll let you in on a little secret Sydney and I have kept from you. You’re all of those things to her. She’d be just as lost without you as you without her. Don’t forget that.

The final point you raised in your letter related to the types of cases that walk in your door. Yes, they’re not always as simple as you might like, but I send those particular individuals into your office because you’re the person they need. Not police. Not another private detective. You. But how you handle their cases is up to you. I can’t force you to take on a particular case any more than another. And I also can’t control its outcome. Your cases are yours. I just document the events that take place.

There’s one last point I’d like to make. Yes, you always seem to say or do the wrong thing when it comes to you and Sydney. Look, no relationship is perfect. But she loves you, madly. She’d literally sacrifice herself for you. I mean, look at what she did during the Vega case. I still can’t believe it as I sit here and write this. It wasn’t for your clients. Or for her. Or for some greater good. She did it all for you. No relationship is perfect, but she is. So do what she says. Always. And when you do manage to upset her you better make it right. Immediately.

Regards,

John Guillen