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?

Which Characters Would you Follow into Battle?

I’ve been thinking of this post for a few weeks now. I think I may have been watching a Narnia movie when I came up with it. Pretty sure. Anyway, I want you to do something for me. Get off your phone or computer or whatever for just a minute. Now think of some books with ridiculous battle sequences. They don’t even have to be actual battles. Maybe a particular character or two or ten is embarking on an unknown journey and knows a fight’s ahead. Or maybe a character has been told not to examine something further. A battle can be any sort of conflict for this. Now let me tell you who I’d follow into battle or stand with against the worst of odds.

Katniss Everdeen

There are way too many reasons for my eagerness to stand with Katniss through anything for me to list them all here. Like she said in Mockingjay Part 1, she never asked for any of what’s happened to her. If I have to give at least one reason why I’d stand with her, then that’s it. Because she starts off fighting just to stay alive, and for her family. But eventually she embraces who she is and what she has come to represent and fights for so much more than just those immediately around her. She’s the mockingjay. And she’s ready to fight for me. I’d be ready to fight for her.

Albus Dumbledore

Don’t tell me I can’t say him if I haven’t read all the books yet. My reasoning for choosing him is because I don’t think he’d ever hesitate to help someone, especially a student in need. But eventually he’s going to find himself in a position in which he can’t get by on his own. And I’d want to be there. So someone could help him for once.

Elvis Cole

Y’all probably don’t know him as well as the first two selections, but I’ve talked about him a number of times in the past on here. He’s an LA private eye. I would want to be right there next to him as he faces impossible odds because that’s what he always finds himself doing. I’m sure some of you don’t even read detective fiction, but this guy doesn’t just think of his clients as a means to make money. His clients are people in need. And they’ve gone to him for help. And he never lets them down. He refuses to.

Master Chief

John-117 is more than the last of the Spartans left. He’s more than a super soldier. He’s more than a guy in fancy armor. He’s hope. Mankind is on the brink of total annihilation, but it’d be impossible to give up if you get one look at him. Knowing that he’s ready to fight to the death. Knowing that he will never give up. Knowing that he still believes the war can be won. No. He doesn’t make me want to go into shelter and hope that he’ll eventually come through and save humanity. Seeing him makes me want to suit up and grab an assault rifle to stand with him. To fight alongside him. Even knowing the war may never be won.

So those are the four characters I would follow into battle! What about you? Which characters would you stand with?

Which Authors Would you Invite to Thanksgiving Dinner?

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Photo Credit: Delish

I know Thanksgiving has already passed, but I wanted to post my poem on Thursday and then I thought you guys might like to know about Amazon’s promotion yesterday. So you’re getting a post related to Thanksgiving a bit late. Sue me.

Okay. It’s the beginning of November and you’re trying to figure out who is and who isn’t coming to Thanksgiving dinner. Except this time we’re not talking about family members you see each year. Nope. They’re on vacation in Cozumel. Now you’re inviting some of your favorite authors instead. How exciting!

Let me tell you who I would invite. Michael Connelly, James Patterson, Robert Crais, Robert B. Parker, and Suzanne Collins. The first four all for the same reason. Because they all write truly great detective series that I’ll never be able to compete with. So I’d just pick their brains about writing the genre for a few hours. I probably wouldn’t eat. These guys are heavyweights going strong with no sign of slowing down. Except for Parker, who died a couple years ago.

And Suzanne Collins. Because I’m obsessed with the character she created. I mean, I want to get a freaking Mockingjay pin tattoo. Oooh. Maybe I could get it before she arrives and show her how crazy I am. I’d just tell her everything I love about her stories and Katniss. Then I’d beg to get all three books signed by her AND Katniss herself. Then I’d just die. Right there.

So those are the authors I’d invite to Thanksgiving dinner! What about you? And don’t you dare try saying EL James or Stephenie Meyer. I’ll block you. Not kidding.

Characters in Their Free Time

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Photo Credit: The Best News

I don’t know about you, but my characters tend to have a little bit of free time during the course of their stories. In my experience reading PI novels sometimes all one can do is wait and see what happens. And I’d have to say that that’s also the case in most stories. I mean, Harry Potter has plenty of free time in his stories, right? And if a boy wizard who has Voldemort after him can have free time, then so can your characters.

Now let’s see. In my first book I had my characters go for a run, watch sports on TV, watch the news on TV, lay out by the pool, read, and probably a bunch of other things I can’t remember off the top of my head at two in the morning as I write this. To me, that sounds pretty normal. For them to be doing things that you’d expect any typical person to be doing at a given time. But your character probably also has hobbies. See, that’s the thing. I’m NOT only talking hobbies here, I’m talking what is actually described in the text. Sure it’s nice that your character likes long walks on the beach at sunset, but that’s not the discussion we’re having. I’m talking about actions.

So tell me, what do you have your characters do during their free time during their stories?

Oh, Andrew also enjoyed a nap and had a quick gym session in my book.

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?

Why are Protagonists Always Damaged in Some Way?

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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 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

The Faces of my Characters

ImagePhoto Credit: Scholastic

I’m really starting to realize that blogging is all about copying someone else. Cause this is another post that I’ve seen on another blog in which the author introduces you to their characters via pictures and short descriptions. Well, time for y’all to meet mine! Even though I think I can count on one finger how many of my followers have actually read my book. But, let’s talk about them anyway.

Andrew

Andrew Banks is the protagonist of my stories. And he’s me. But physically we aren’t the same. If you happened to read my post from yesterday you’ll see that. He’s taller. Bigger. And he’s White. I thought of finding a picture of me to use for this anyway, but I realized that I don’t take pictures. Ever. So you’ll just have to use your imagination for him. I’d call him a mix of Mark Wahlberg and The Rock.

He’s smart. He has a master’s degree in criminal justice. He’s 27 at the start of the first book in the series. He’s never left the city in which he was born, Houston. He struggles with decisions that force him to put his morals aside. He has an inherent need to help every person who walks into his office. He has a library of books in his office that he uses to pass the time when he’s not working on a case. And he would rather die than see harm come to his longtime girlfriend, Sydney.

Sydney

Before I talk about Sydney the character I have to talk about Sydney the girl you see here. Just a little. Don’t ask me what that face is, cause I don’t know. Ha. I let her pick the picture and this is what I got. I think she was trying to represent her character when she took this? Maybe. Anyway, pretend that she didn’t have her glasses on here. And look at her eyes. Seriously, I’ve probably told her eight million times how wonderful they are. Not even kidding. I mean, blonde hair, blue eyes is great and all, but blonde hair, green eyes is SO much better! There’s a lot more to her than her eyes, but that’s all you get by way of intro. Just look at them one more time before reading on! Okay, you can continue.

Sydney the character looks exactly the same as Sydney in the picture. And she’s highly intelligent. She’s a nurse. She’s overly sarcastic. She’s independent. She’s absolutely hilarious. She’s a little moody at times. She gets jealous REALLY easily. I’d say it’s her height. She’s little. She wants to protect Andrew as much as he wants to protect her. She cooks. She’s fit. She makes Andrew carry her around. A LOT. And she wears the pants in their relationship. And she’s always reading something. No wonder they get along so well. AND she’s my favorite character I’ve written. She’s 22 at the start of the first book in the series.

Nathan

I’m not sure how we got polar opposites with these pictures here. One is more playful and this is like “THIS IS MY SERIOUS FACE.” Ha. Again, I let him pick the picture. I only stipulated that it show his hair clearly. He claims to have great hair. You be the judge.

Nathan the character will be known to you in the book as Fox. He’s a homicide detective working with the Houston Police Department. He looks like this guy you see here, but imagine about 25 years older. I aged him in the story in order to give him a bit of experience working in the criminal justice system. He met Andrew in college and they remained in touch afterward. He also has a master’s degree in criminal justice. He’s English. His cubicle at police headquarters is covered in Liverpool memorabilia. He’s Andrew’s go-to guy for everything when it comes to a case. Fox is the guy who will ultimately vouch for Andrew in the event something catastrophic happens.

Hunter David

ImageThis is not someone I know. This is a picture of IFBB pro bodybuilder, Jay Cutler.

Hunter David, on the other hand is the bad guy. I won’t tell you much about him other than a few things. He’s a millionaire. He’s bad. And he doesn’t care what happens to anyone in his way. As I wrote the story, this picture is exactly what I had in mind for him.

Alejandra

ImageHere we have a picture of Melanie Iglesias. Can you say breathtaking? Cause I can and I will. She is breathtaking. Okay, I’ll stop.

Alejandra is a major minor character. She’s the mother of Andrew’s first client, who’s quite young. I wasn’t going to include her in this post until I realized I had the perfect celebrity to match what I came up with in the book. She is Melanie up there. I mean, the first time Andrew meets her she has on an eerily similar outfit. Andrew even makes a remark during the course of the book that she knows she makes other women self-conscious instantly. I don’t have much by way of character traits and things of that nature. She cries. She laughs. She hugs Andrew. Multiple times. That’s about it.

So there you have SOME of the characters from my first book. It’s clearly not an exhaustive list, but it’s sufficient for this post. What do you think of these wonderful faces?

Photo Credits: Healthy Celeb

Hollywood Actors

An Author’s Worst Enemy: Writer’s block

Photo Credit: zazzle.com

I have written several posts during my time on WordPress detailing my avid attitude against the existence of writer’s block. I’ve always said that it’s not a lack of creativity but rather a mind game that the author is losing to himself. I’ve said that it’s an excuse not to write. That it’s ridiculous to sit there and think that a writer can be writing along and then have no idea where to take the story. I’ve said all of these things about the phenomena known as writer’s block, and I’m ready to admit that I was wrong.

You see, I have a very straightforward writing philosophy. I write a chapter. I read through it. Make changes. Take a day or two or five away from writing. Then repeat the process. It was slightly different for my first book, but this is what it is today. I’ve worked my way through ten chapters of my second book, and the process itself has never failed. It was me.

In my tenth chapter I took my story to a place that I probably shouldn’t have. I knew that it would be difficult writing from there because I was starting to write what I didn’t know. I was taking the story to a place I didn’t anticipate and, as a result, I’m stuck. I don’t know what I want to happen in the next few chapters. I don’t know what the heck my private detective is doing by handling his case the way he is. I don’t know how these next few chapters will allow me to finish the story how I want to. BUT I do know that I’m not going back and rewriting my previous chapter in order to make these next few a bit easier to write. The story is great how it is now, I just need to get moving forward again. And I will, I just need some time to think.

If you’re suffering from this horrible illness that seems to inflict all writers at some point, rest assured, you’re not alone. I’m right there with you. I salute your determination to keep pressing forward. Now if only I could do so myself.

Tenth Chapter Benchmark

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At last, I have some actual book stuff to tell you guys about. If you’ve been with me long enough you’ll recall that I revealed some stats about my first book last summer once I reached the conclusion of the tenth chapter. Ten is such a nice round number and it gives me the opportunity now to compare where I was in my first book through ten chapters to where I am in my second. But first let me tell you about the chapter.

I know it’s been some time since I posted about MY book, so let me give you a short review of what’s happened so far. Andrew is hired by a prominent activist who needs some additional security. Andrew and Sydney have decided to add to their tiny family. A major event hosted by Andrew’s client is interrupted by some very unwelcome guests. And the case is sending Andrew out of the city of Houston for the first time.

In this chapter Andrew and Sydney make a major decision regarding their relationship. The chapter is playful and happy and serious and argumentative all at once.

Obviously that wasn’t an in depth review of what’s happened, but all of that is in previous blog posts. Feel free to play around on here if you want to know more about the first nine chapters.

Now, to the stats! And I offered up a comparison between my first book numbers and my second.

Book Two (Book One)

Word Count: 23,561 (22,885)

Chapters: 10 (10)

Average Chapter Length: 2,356 (2,288)

Total Editing Time: 24 hours 34 minutes (27 hours 54 minutes)

Total Pages (in Word): 76 (70)

Average Length Spent on Each Chapter: 2 hours 27 minutes  (2 hours 45 minutes)