Do you shy Away From Reading Long Series?

I actually just read a blog post about this topic yesterday that gave me the idea to write this. I’d link to the post if I remembered the name. Oh well.

Let me just tell you what this other blogger said. She categorized a “long” series as more than five books. And basically said that anything more than that is just too long and fails to keep her attention. I disagree. Let’s not forget Harry Potter was seven. Just saying.

I mean, five books being categorized as a “long” series is a joke. That is a short series. A very short one. I mean, five books is probably only long to YA readers who read trilogy after trilogy. Followed by Twilight and Fifty Shades of Grey. I’m not trying to generalize here, but really who thinks five books is a long series? Who? Another question. How many books are in your favorite series? Mine happens to have three, but when I start looking at more of the series I read I see a whole lot more books than that. Let me see. Robert B. Parker’s Spenser series is into the 40s. And oh by the way, this is only considered one of the great detective series of the past half century. Jack Reacher is about to reach 20. Alex Cross is into the 20s. Harry Bosch is nearing 20 books. Alex McKnight is in the double digits. Jesse Stone is at 14. Elvis Cole is at 16.

See what I’m saying? These are not just random series I found on the internet. I read all of them and there are several more that I could name. But I think I’ve made my point. I know I don’t speak for every reader out there, but it does beg the question that if readers were turned off by long series, then why are so many authors writing them? Michael Connelly just released a new Bosch novel this week and I’m near certain that it’ll be a #1 NYT bestseller whenever the list updates. As is also the case with most of James Patterson’s books. And Lee Child’s. And Sue Grafton’s. And I know there are YA series that go on and on, as well.

The moral of this post is that I don’t buy into the notion that readers are turned off by long series. Not at all. There are way too many that sell quite well for that to be the case. But I’ll ask anyway, do you shy away from reading lengthy series?

Characters and Their Pets

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Photo Credit: The Atlantic

We all know that there are a million things going on in most books that may or may not affect the story. Could one of those things that doesn’t be whether or not your MC has pets? I’m not sure it’s a clear cut answer. Let me think a little about this.

Katniss and her family have a goat. But then she of course hunts, so she’s not exactly a PETA spokesperson. Elvis Cole has a cat that frequents his house, but I don’t think the cat is necessarily his. Or maybe he is, can’t remember exactly. I think the cat was shot at some point too. Let’s see…Harry has Hedwig. Those are just about all the ones I can think of off the top of my head. I’m wondering if any of these say anything about their owners. Maybe that they’re responsible. And affectionate. And maybe lonely at times? I’m not sure. But maybe you know better than I do.

You all should know by now that I’m not currently writing because I’m focused on other things that I feel are more important, BUT in my current WIP Andrew and Sydney have decided to get a dog. An English bulldog that they intend to name Arnold. See, I’m not sure what it says about them that they’re doing this. I mean, they’re making some major changes and the bulldog is one of them. He’s all set to join the family very shorty after Sydney moves in. Maybe they’re paternal. Maybe they’re bored. Maybe…I don’t know why the heck they’re getting a dog? The point is that perhaps there doesn’t always have to be a particular reason for a writer to do something. At least I don’t think so.

Tell me about your characters’ pets. I think cats and dogs should be the most common, but who knows? Birds, snakes, turtles, whatever. I want to hear about them. And tell me why you chose to give your character at all.

Can you Name a Single Favorite Author?

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Photo Credit: 3rd Grade’s a Hoot

In the last few months I’ve talked about my favorite series of books and also my favorite protagonist, but does that necessarily mean that the author of those books is my favorite? I don’t know. Actually, I do. No it doesn’t. If you missed that post I’ll link to it at the end of this, but let’s just say that my favorite series revolves around my favorite protagonist who sometimes goes by the Girl on Fire. I sincerely hope that you know who she is. If not, your life is probably a mess. Just kidding. Not really.

Okay. So now I have to dive into who I think is my single favorite author. If it’s possible to have a single favorite. This is one of those questions that always depends on when you ask. I’d be willing to bet that many people today would name John Green or Veronica Roth as their favorite. Understandable, but I don’t think one’s favorite author should always be changing. I’ve had just two books make the top of my best books read list since I first started it. I think the list has over 120 titles. See, I think one’s favorite author should be treated similarly. If they are truly your favorite, then they should remain so for some time. Not two weeks until you read the next book you deem to be the best ever.

So now that I’ve eliminated Suzanne Collins from the competition, let me see who else might make the top of the pile. Robert B. Parker. I think by the time I’m 35 or 40 I’ll have every book he ever wrote. The number is around 70 divided between several different series. But I don’t think he’s my favorite. Marcus Sakey. He has a handful of books that were truly great. I actually remember the story of every one. Somewhat. But his two most recent books are part of a trilogy that I’ll never read. Much too sci-fi for me when he’s a crime writer. I think there are only two more authors who are seriously in the running for the coveted title of John Guillen’s Favorite Author Award.

Michael Connelly. This guy just does not know how to write a mediocre novel. Harry Bosch is probably the best detective series I’ve read. I’ve also read one of his Mickey Haller novels, great. I really have nothing negative to say about his writing style or any of his books.

Robert Crais. He’s here because of Elvis Cole, who heavily influenced my own Andrew Banks. Again, nothing negative to say about any of his books I’ve read. It took me a long time to start the series because of the title of the first book. I kept hesitating to take a chance, but the climax of that first one was so intense that it was one of those rare times when you can’t read the words fast enough.

After a lot of thought, I can’t pick a winner. These two are the best of the best when it comes to crime fiction today. I deem the competition a tie.

But maybe you can. Do you have a single favorite author who isn’t just whomever is in the spotlight at the moment?

What’s That one Series of Books You Won’t Forget?

The Lack of Diversity in my Reading

Photo Credit: Valparaiso, IN

Before I continue with this post, I’d like to let you know that I’ll be talking about the lack of racial diversity in my reading. But I know that some people see anything Race related and automatically turn away, which is why I left it out of the title. The topic of racial diversity in publishing will NOT be discussed. This time. We’re strictly talking about my reading. Let’s begin.

One more point that I need to make before moving on is that in no way am I saying that these books, authors, or series are any less worthy of reading. We’re talking about me.

I’ve talked quite a bit about my reading habits on here. I mean, I have three different pages that are dedicated to books I’ve already read or want to in the future. And obviously reading is a big part of any discussion about books, so it makes sense to devote a good amount of space on here to my reading. But I realized something earlier today that I honestly hadn’t noticed before. It was something of a shock, actually. A huge percentage of the books I read not only have White protagonists, but they’re written by White authors. I can assure you that this was not done on purpose. That would be me saying that protagonists or authors of another Race are less worthy of reading. Absolutely not. I’m Mexican! Yes, I realize that in itself does not mean much, but I’m a Mexican author too. I want EVERYONE to read my books. And quite honestly, I believe my audience to be middle-aged, educated, White women. This is based off of the author events I’ve attended for writers in my genre. I saw the same person in the audience over and over again. I can tell you for certain that I was the youngest at every event I attended. By decades.

Anyway, let’s get back on topic. Let me tell you about some of the series and authors I read.

Authors

James Patterson – White

Suzanne Collins – White

Lee Child – White

Steve Hamilton – White

Robert B. Parker – White

Robert Crais – White

You get the point. There are more but it is not MOSTLY the same, it is EXACTLY the same. There is one author out of all of my books who is not White. Michele Martinez. I do have all of her books, but she only has four. Now let’s look at the protagonists I read.

Series

Spenser – White

Katniss Everdeen – White

Harry Bosch – White

Elvis Cole – White

Kinsey Millhone – White

Alex McKnight – White

Merci Rayborn – White

There are a whopping two series I read that revolve around non-White protagonists. Alex Cross, who is African-American. And Melanie Vargas. This is disappointing to me. Quite so.

I can guarantee that the Race of the main character is never once mentioned in any of these series, except for Alex Cross and Melanie Vargas. It’s not mentioned because it’s so obvious to the reader that it never needs to be mentioned.

I love all of the authors I’ve listed, all of them. Their books and writing and careers all speak for themselves. But I can’t wrap my head around the fact that I consider myself an avid reader and yet, it would appear that I’m an avid reader of the exact same thing over and over again. I’m sure plenty of readers are the same way, but I don’t want that to be the case with me. I want to be a well-rounded reader because there are plenty of great writers out there who are worthy of reading but may not be well known. It’s time for me to make an effort to read more books that follow a Black protagonist or Mexican or whomever, along with the series I already enjoy.

And the absolute worst part of all this, and I do mean the worst, is that I wrote a protagonist who is me in every aspect…except Race. And I’ll even tell you why. Because I thought him being White would attract more readers than him being Mexican. I sincerely love Andrew and the character I’ve created, but I HATE that I did that. Hate it. I don’t know if this is me conforming to the publishing industry or what, but I need to figure out whether I want to write the stories I want to write or whether I’m writing what I think might get me published one day. They may or may not be the same thing. Which is unfortunate.

I know my posts are typically witty, funny, and informative, but this was a post I needed to write for me.

Thanks for reading.

I ask that you glance over at your bookshelf and see if you find the same problem I did.

Never Ask a Reader About Their Favorite Book

Photo Credit: sodahead.com

It seems like a simple enough question when you ask, but can turn into a whirlwind of things for the person who is trying to come up with an answer. Because any person who has read as few as fifty books will likely struggle for an answer. Here’s what would happen to me if asked about my favorite book.

The first thought to enter my head would be the list I keep of my top/ favorite books read. It’s a list in the ballpark of 150 books. I would think of the top five. The top five includes Michael Connelly, Suzanne Collins, T. Jefferson Parker, Marcus Sakey, and Eric Nylund. Three of these authors are crime novelists and two are not. I would think back to each of the books and decide that it’s near impossible to pick any one over another, no matter how I have them ranked.

Then I’d think of my first book. Could that be my favorite? I’ve read it more times than I’ve read any other book. I wrote it. The protagonist is me. Surely it’s at least in the conversation. But does the book stand up against the others I’m thinking of? And how could I forget The Great Gatsby?

Then my Excel spreadsheet of all of the book authors I own would come to mind. I would think about the fact that a handful of authors make up a huge chunk of my reading. My favorite must be written by one of them. Maybe Robert B. Parker or Steve Hamilton? Maybe Robert Crais or James Patterson?

Then all of the series I read would jump into the equation. Katniss Everdeen is one of my favorite literary characters ever. And Alex Cross. And Spenser. And Elvis Cole. And Karen Vail.

And finally, with my head spinning in circles, I would accept the fact that it’s impossible to pick a single favorite. All while the person asking the question was simply trying to make small talk by asking in the first place.

BUT if you had to pick one favorite book that you’ve read, what would it be?

And so it Begins

I said that I would read a handful of detective books before reading my own so that I would have perfectly written works fresh in my head when I attempt to judge my writing from the eyes of a reader. Well, I decided to read only two books instead of a greater number. I chose to read The Widening Gyre (Spenser #10) by Robert B. Parker and Indigo Slam (Elvis Cole #7) by Robert Crais because these two titles most fit into the genre that I wish to write. I have eight more detective stories on my unread shelf, but those are mostly police procedurals and my book doesn’t fall into that more specific category.

I plan on reading with a red pen and sticky notes to mark things that need changing or that I think can be better. I’m not going to stop and correct everything as I go, but rather I’ll mark the place and take a look once I’ve finished the entire book.

I already have a short list of things that I know I want to change for future drafts and I’m sure I’ll find more along the way.

Wish me luck!

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