Do Your Characters Sleep?

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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?

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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?

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.

Series or Standalone: How do you decide?

Photo Credit: Adam Hagerman

I have to assume that most authors make this decision before beginning work on a new book. I would hope so. And there may even be times in which the publisher ultimately makes the decision for the author based on the success of previous works. But we’re just talking about the author’s perspective.

So you’ve decided to write a book? Great. Now you’ve come up with some story you want to write. Great. Then you begin writing. Yes, I know there are more steps to beginning work on a book, but the point of this post isn’t the book writing process. It’s about deciding whether or not your book should be the start of a new series or if it should be a standalone novel.

What needs to happen for you to make this decision? This decision was made LONG before I started writing. I’m talking December 2011! My first draft was finished in August 2013. I didn’t even begin writing until May 2013. But I always knew that I wanted to write a detective series. Let me tell you why. Because I LOVE series. The number of books in the series makes no difference at all. The Hunger Games is my favorite series ever. It’s a simple trilogy. Harry Bosch will appear in the 19th book of his series later this year. Robert B. Parker’s Spenser detective appeared in 40 books before Parker’s death in 2010. He’s since appeared in three more novels. Alex Cross has appeared in 21 books to date. See, the quality of a series doesn’t depend on the number of books written in said series. Would I love more THG books? Yes. Would I love for Parker to have written more Spenser novels before his death? Yes.

BUT there’s another side of the same coin. Some of my favorite authors have made their livings off of writing standalone novels. T. Jefferson Parker, who has written two of my nine favorite books, has written 11 standalone novels. Some fans of his would even argue that his writing is worse when he’s writing a series. His most recent Charlie Hood novels have not been well received by his readers, but some of his older work has helped him win two Edgar awards for Best Novel. Both books are as great as it gets in crime fiction.

Another of my favorite authors Marcus Sakey has gotten his writing career off the ground with standalone novels. Six of his eight books have been standalones. I hated his first series related book. I won’t even consider continuing the series.

So what helps you make the decision to write or not write a series of books around a single character? Do you think it’s inherently easier to write a long series? Or do you think you’ll be able to produce better stories if you have a new protagonist every time you write? Tell me your thoughts.

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

In short, what’s your favorite series of books? Now I know this is not an easy question for any bibliophile out there to just answer without any thought. It isn’t for me, but hopefully by the time I reach the end of this post I’ll have an answer for you guys.

Let me first begin by listing some of the series that I read.

Spenser. Harry Bosch. Hunger Games. Karen Vail. Alex McKnight. Alex Cross. Will Trent. Grant County. Gears of War. Halo. Charlie Hood. Jesse Stone. Jack Reacher. Kinsey Millhone. Merci Rayborn.

As you can see, I read a lot of different series. I have several more on my shelf that I have yet to start. Now, let me see if I can narrow it down a bit. Merci Rayborn and Kinsey Millhone aren’t my favorite. I’ve only read two Jack Reacher novels, though both good, not my absolute favorite series. Charlie Hood is written by one of my favorite authors but isn’t the best series I’ve ever read. Jesse Stone and Spenser are both written by the same author and I’ve read more Spenser books. Will Trent and Grant County merge into one series later. Karen Vail…good but not great. Same goes for Alex McKnight.

That leaves these for me to decide on my favorite: Spenser, Harry Bosch, Hunger Games, Alex Cross, Gears of War, and Halo.

#6 Halo

I’m sure some of you are fans of the video games, but if you haven’t read the books then you absolutely should. It makes the storyline of the games look like nothing. My reasoning for putting this series at number six is because the books are written by several authors, which sometimes makes the Master Chief change from one book to the next. They’re all good books, and a couple of them are truly great. Three of them are ranked in the top fifteen of my list of best books read.

#5 Gears of War

Might as well get the other science fiction series out of the way, right? I have every book of the series and I’ve read all but one. One of these is actually the longest book I’ve ever read at just a couple of pages under 600. Again, I’m sure some of you are fans of the video games, but there is SO much more to the story than the games can possibly offer you. SO MUCH. Karen Traviss has done a phenomenal job writing these books and you definitely see all of the characters in the books exactly as they are in the games. I have one of the books ranked as the eighteenth best book I’ve read, which is very high, but the others fall a little short. Just an overall solid series.

#4 Alex Cross

James Patterson has his critics for the way he writes and publishes, BUT the guy can entertain his readers like no other author I’ve ever read. Sure, his stories are sometimes farfetched and unbelievable, but you only think that AFTER reading the book. His way of writing two-three page chapters keeps you wanting more. He literally has you on the edge of your seat while you read. I believe the Alex Cross series is the only one of his that he writes alone. Four of these books rank in the top nineteen books I’ve ever read. Alex Cross has been adapted to film three times and none of them have matched the quality of the books. This is a series for every reader of crime fiction.

#3 Spenser

This is where I start having to nitpick just to continue the list and not declare a tie. I started the series late (it began all the way back in the 70s). I started the series after having read every available book of the Jesse Stone series a couple of years ago. Suffice it to say that I couldn’t buy the books fast enough. Spenser is a former boxer turned Boston PI. He’s smart, witty, and loves to cook. He has a set of values that you rarely read in detective fiction. He’s always looking to help someone. Always. There isn’t much more for me to tell you. Start the series.

#2 Harry Bosch

Man this is tough. I’m sitting here going through the books of the two remaining series and I can’t come up with anything negative for either one! The Harry Bosch series by Michael Connelly was started in the early 90s. We’ve seen him age and adapt in real-time. It’s a wonderful thing to read. He’s a detective working with the LAPD and he takes every homicide victim to heart. Every one. You’d think that they were all family, and it just so happens that one of them was. Bosch is the guy cop shows try to show on screen. He’s the guy who never treats any one case differently than another. He’d solve every case if he could. He provides justice to those who need it most. If for some reason you haven’t started this series and you read crime fiction, then start it.

#1 Hunger Games

AND THE WINNER IS………..Hunger Games! I’m not trying to follow in everyone’s footsteps. I’m not. Yes I know the first two movies have begun a mega-blockbuster series. Yes I know millions of readers have declared their love for the series. Yes I know that there are similar YA series out there that many would argue are better. The thing is that I don’t care. I started this series at the beginning of 2012. I had no expectations because I honestly had no idea what the heck it was. I didn’t have a blog and I was unaware of the hype surrounding the series as the first movie’s release date neared. That first chapter, the one in which Katniss does the unthinkable and volunteers from District 12 to participate in the annual Hunger Games so her sister doesn’t have to, brought tears to my eyes and goosebumps down my arms. What author can accomplish that so early in a book?! The rest of the book flew by as I couldn’t stop reading. The second in the series, Catching Fire, managed to outdo its predecessor. I will admit, though, that the third book wasn’t quite on par with the first two. It was a great book and one couldn’t possibly predict how the series played out, but the other two were unforgettable.

So there you have my list, now tell me which series of books has left its mark on you permanently?

*All of the covers are the first books of their respective series.  By clicking on any cover image you will be redirected to the Amazon product page of each book.*

Never Ask a Reader About Their Favorite Book

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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?

December Sales Report

This will be the second and final time I report any kind of sales figures for my book unless my blog tour pushes a few sales my way in the month of January.

So, if you’ll recall, I sold 74 books in my book’s first month of release in November. And had 206 free downloads that same month for a grand total of 280 individual readers getting their hands on my debut novel. There were a few giveaways as well.

The month of December was better and worse. I only sold 59 books but I had 6531 free downloads. You’re probably thinking about the money aspect of selling books, but I’m not. I’d be happy if just ten percent of the 6590 new readers I found in the month of December read my book. I’d like some reviews too, but no need to get picky.

No matter the fact that I’ve decided not to self publish again, I’m still quite pleased with everything that’s happened with my book. Though a number of former professors have grabbed a copy and I’ve yet to hear from any one of them. Yikes. But like they told me before reading it…doesn’t matter if the reader likes it or not, as long as they buy it. I don’t really believe in that philosophy, but it is kind of true.

Lastly, my blog tour starts on Monday! I’ll likely be linking every tour stop to my blog. If there happens to be any WordPress tour hosts then I’ll just reblog the post if not, I’ll just give you guys a link to the post on whatever blogging platform the host is using so you all can see what other book people are saying about my book. I really hope they’re nice. I’m a little scared.

Anyway, wish me luck on my blog tour!

And I added the 2013 Reading List page that lists the books I read last year and updated the What I’m Reading page to reflect my current reading. Take a look!

One last thing. I’ve decided this year to be more active on Goodreads and I just recently posted my first two book reviews! Remember that I am not a book reviewer and will not ever add them on here, BUT I think that being as much a book person as I am that I should share my thoughts on the books I read with other book people. Also, I’m not trying to be super professional with my reviews. They are what they are. I reviewed Valediction (Spenser #11) by Robert B. Parker and Brilliance by Marcus Sakey. The links will take you to the reviews on Goodreads.