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.

Ending Your Story

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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.

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.

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.

Stopping a Book Before you Finish

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Photo Credit: Pretty in Fiction

I know more avid readers than I do this several times throughout the year. They pick up a book, whether by an author they know or one that is new to them, and never reach the final page. To me, this is a terrible feeling. Not because I feel bad for the author or the publisher or anyone involved, but because somewhere along the line I read the blurb or a review or something that helped me decide that this was a book I’d like to read. So I become disappointed that I made a wrong turn somewhere.

Let me tell you what typically makes me stop a book before I finish because it has happened a lot more recently than ever before. For the longest time I had only one or two books I’d started and stopped. I just did a quick check and I think that number is five now. Three happened this year! So what makes me stop reading a book? It’s boring. A book by one of my favorite authors that came out last year that was quite a bit different from his previous work had whole chapters of description. Whole 25-35 page chapters! What is that? The protagonist. I don’t think I’ve ever read any books in which I hated the protagonist, but there have been a few that made me just want to throw my book out the window. Not naming any, though. Pace. Now I’ve mentioned before that as a writer I know nothing about pacing. Well as a reader I think I’m more knowledgeable. I shouldn’t be nearly halfway through the work before knowing what the heck is going on. I want to know the conflict and I want to know it early on.

There is one other reason I might stop a book. If I’m just trying out a new author and I’m not hooked by the first 50-100 pages, then I might stop and grab something off my shelf by an author I know I like.

I think there have been five or six books I’ve started and never finished, and I still haven’t gone back to any of them.

So tell me, what makes you stop a book before finishing? And how often would you say it happens to you? I’m sure your reasons may be similar to mine, but maybe you have more.

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.

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.

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

Letter From Character to Author

Photo Credit: Impowerable

Okay. My Mondays are typically reserved for posts that I think are most relevant to my readers/followers. They’ve usually been questions about reading or writing that don’t always have the most simple answer. But I’ve happened to read a few posts in which characters write letters to their authors or vice-versa. And I think it’s awesome. So here we are. I’ll have a letter written from me to my character next week. Now let’s see what he has to tell me!

Dear JohnRaymond,

I can call you that, right? Since we’re the same person. I think that makes us family. Boy, do I have some bones to pick with you. Where do I even begin? I’ll start with something I’ve already said. I know you WANT us to be the same. But we aren’t. I’m taller. Bigger. And quite a bit more funny than you are. And let’s not forget that we aren’t even the same Race. I know you want to be a hotshot PI like me, but stick to your life and I’ll stick to mine. Okay? Good.

Wow. I didn’t mean for this to come across as my being so bitter toward you. I’m not. I mean, you created me. You gave me the greatest girl who ever lived and I love her dearly. And you gave me a gun and made sure I knew how to use it. You gave me a strong moral compass that I know can only come from you. You gave me a business of my own that has been successful during its short run so far. And you gave me the ability to help people. It doesn’t get much better than that.

BUT, there’s more. I have some questions that I hope you’ll answer in any returning correspondence because I’d love to hear your answers. First, why is it that you send clients into my office who need the help and assistance of law enforcement? I mean, I’d like to think I’m decent at what I do, but I am just one person. I was lucky to get out of the Vega case alive, and that was my first. You gave me a break with some of the next cases that you didn’t think were good enough to write about and then threw the Giles case at me. Really? A prominent activist known across the country couldn’t afford someone more experienced than me? I realize I’m writing this while still working on that case, but I have no idea how I’ll be able to figure it all out on my own. Lastly, stop me from making Sydney upset all the time. Every other chapter I’ve done the wrong thing or said something stupid. Come on.

JohnRaymond, I know I’ve been critical of you, but the last thing I want to mention in this letter is something of great importance. I want to thank you for the support system you’ve provided me. I’ll always have Fox to turn to for help on my cases, no matter how serious they may be. And Sydney. It’s great that she’s beautiful and smart and independent and won’t put up with any nonsense from me. But that’s not it. There’s nothing she can’t handle. I can talk to her about a case or a decision I’m struggling with and she’ll always know what needs to be said or done. Always. I honestly believe that she’s better at what I do than I am.

Are there some things that I wish you’d do a little differently? Yes. But I have Sydney and Fox and that tells me that I’ll be able to navigate my way through anything that walks in my door. Thank you.

Yours,

Andrew Banks

Novel Writing: Should your protagonist be autobiographical?

Photo Credit: Cinderella in Combat Boots

I’ve written extensively about the fact that my protagonist from my first book is me. He’s more funny and probably smarter, but he’s still me. I’ve also read blog posts and articles in the past that say the practice of creating a fictional character who takes after the author is not all that uncommon, especially when it comes to first books. Two authors who come to mind when I think of this practice are Sue Grafton and JK Rowling. Sue Grafton and her fictional California-based PI are one in the same. I believe, though I’m not checking right this second, that JK Rowling and Harry Potter share a birthday.

My reasoning for doing this had only to do with the fact that I felt it would make the story better. I wanted to put myself in Andrew’s shoes every step of the way during that first case. I wanted him to face some internal dilemma that couldn’t be seen from the surface. I wanted him to be real. And I wanted the reader to be able to relate to him. I have no idea how well I was able to do this in my first book, but it was constantly on my mind as those 21 chapters were written.

So now you know that Andrew Banks is really just John Guillen in disguise, but what about you? Have you written a protagonist who perhaps shares some characteristics with you? Or who maybe shares something like a birthday with you? Tell me!