Saturday, September 14, 2019

OMG! I finally fit in a genre! 😝

For all the times I complained about not wanting to be stuck in a genre, I've finally found the perfect one!

Ever since my first book, I've never been comfortable classifying any of my books into a specific category. Nothing ever quite fit. There was romance, action, suspense, murder, dark humor and even some vampires thrown in a couple, but none of these specific genres felt right. It was as though all my books included so many things that it was kind of difficult to really categorize them properly so I chose instead to toss everything into the 'dark fiction' category. It seemed like the most accurate, if not the best category.

Recently, I stumbled across the concept of 'counterculture' and I was immediately intrigued. What was that exactly and why did it sound so appealing? As turns out, counterculture tends to be a way of life that goes against social 'norms'. This demographic rejects 'conventional' society choosing instead to live by their own standards.

This grabbed my attention.

In my first two books (Fire and A Spark before the Fire) my characters reject the values of society by striving to become rock stars, which in itself, tends to be a very counterculture lifestyle.

In my third and fourth book, The Rock Star of Vampires and Her Name is Mariah, I tackle the underground world of vampires. You can't get much more counterculture than that, can you?

Maybe so.

In my current series, my cast of characters tends to go against pretty much all social norms. They make their own laws, follow their own rules and do so without a second thought. Murder, corruption, collusion, and torture are engrained into their lives as if they were the most natural thing. That's pretty counterculture.

My books finally have a home and it's pretty awesome.

Saturday, August 31, 2019

Why I do my research backwards 😯

I've always said that writing is, for the most part, a lot about instincts. You have to follow your characters and trust where they want to take you. For that reason, I often do my research backward.

What does that mean exactly? For the most part, I write whatever I sense the characters are saying, doing or experiencing and generally, I will later find out that I was on the right track. This isn't to say I'm always correct however, I think sometimes we gather and retain more information than we realize over the years. So, even though we may not be fact-checking at the time we're writing, chances are the information is hidden away in the back of our mind. After all, isn't that instincts are in the first place? Information that has been stored away from previous experiences or hidden knowledge we forgot we had?

Of course, there's also an argument that a muse is a key element to any kind of art. For me, a big part of being a writer is accepting that I'm not necessarily in the driver's seat when it comes to a lot of my books but merely going along for the ride.

One great example was from my book And the Devil Will Laugh. In it, Jorge Hernandez reconnects with his mother after she's kidnapped, in an attempt to fix their broken relationship. This is quickly dismissed when she meets his wife Paige, a white, Canadian woman and bluntly informs him that he should've married a 'nice, Mexican girl' instead. Of course, this is in front Paige who doesn't react however, both Jorge and his daughter Maria quickly put the old woman in her place.

At the time, I wondered if perhaps this was too harsh. I then read a blog from a lady who is a white, American living in Mexico, married to a Mexican man. In one particular post, she talked about how her mother-in-law reacted in much the same way when her son married a woman who wasn't Mexican so suddenly, my original instincts didn't seem so extreme. It happens.

This is just one of many examples of how I research backward.

Thursday, August 22, 2019

Why it's important for art to hold a mirror up to society 🎭

As long as there's been art, there's been artists who hold a mirror up to society. It shows us who we are, who we potentially could be and gives us ideas about things we perhaps never considered.

This is important because there's a lot of people who won't turn on the news, won't pick up a newspaper or read about current events online but they will watch a movie, read a book or listen to music. When artists point out certain aspects of society in their work, it allows the reader or viewer a first-hand perspective into their world. It's perhaps the closest they will ever come to 'walking in their shoes' and seeing what it's like to have these experiences. 

In many of my books, I have situations, points of view and even passing comments that bring up what I'm seeing in the world around me. I leave it open for the reader to consider however, I'm not attempting to convince or change anyone's mind. My books are very much about counterculture and often takes things to extremes but I think that in today's world, this is sometimes what you have to do in order to stand out and make a point. 

In the end, I believe that it's the art that really shakes things up that has a lasting effect. It's the movies, books, and music that captured a segment of our society that will always stand out in my mind because they made points that mattered.

Monday, August 12, 2019

Writing about characters that are vastly different from you 🀫

Different ethnicities, the opposite sex, and even vampires; is it difficult to write about characters that are different from you?

The truth is that we're usually writing about characters that aren't necessarily like ourselves. It doesn't matter if the character is the same ethnicity, age and has the same profession as you in a fictional novel, chances are that he/she still isn't quite like you. In fact, if the character did completely relate to you in every way then your book is actually autobiographical, not fiction. 

In my first book, Fire, I wrote about a young, blonde, white woman named Tarah. Many people seemed to draw a parallel between her and I because we had a similar physical description. However, that's where the similarities ended. Her story was vastly different from mine, therefore, I had to dive deep into my imagination to connect with this protagonist. She was a musician turned rock star, in an industry, and with experiences, I knew nothing about. Her life was vastly different from my own at that age. 

Following this book, I wrote A Spark before the Fire, which followed a teenaged, male character who had been featured in Fire. Originally, I feared that this was way out of my comfort zone. After all, how could I write from the voice of a male teenager? Where would I even start?

As it turns out, I had no problem. As soon as I started to write, the inner dialogue and actions of this young man flowed very naturally. It was very instinctual and, in fact, that's been my process as I continue to write about characters that are vastly different from me. I've since written about vampires, narcos, assassins, children, and people of various ethnicities, ages, and sexual preferences. The key is to really listen for the character's voice and it will tell you everything you have to know. 

How do you do that? I would recommend that you find a quiet place and time to do your writing and really focus on your inner voice. Stay calm, stay centered and just start writing. If your instinct is to write about a specific character, chances are they're ready to come out and play.

Saturday, August 3, 2019

Dialogue that pops! πŸ˜‰

The sure sign of great dialogue is when readers start to quote lines from your books. Most of the time, this is something a character says but other time, it's just a general comment within the story. That's when you know you're on the right track!

We've all had friends quoting characters from their favorite television shows and movies. There are lines that are almost as legendary as the programs they're from and yet, some people aren't aware of what's involved in writing great dialogue. There are a few things you should consider.

1. Keep it fresh. We don't need to hear the same lines that are already overused in television, books, and movies. The only exception is when it's being used on purpose to be ironic. For example, in The Devil May Lie, there's a point when Jorge Hernandez, a bloodthirsty criminal, quotes a line from I Love Lucy that greatly contradicts the lighthearted comedy from the '50s. In fact, I think he might even have a gun to someone's head when he uses the line, "Lucy, you got some splainin' to do."

2. Keep it interesting. Let's avoid the same boring conversations you'd have with your great aunt at a wedding. Avoid talking about the weather (unless it's relevant) and the "hi, how are you?" dialogue, if at all possible. I would only use something like this if you're purposely trying to show awkwardness in a conversation. People are bored enough in real-life conversations, so keep your character's dialogue as interesting as possible.

3. Don't ramble. I'm the queen on rambling (which you'll know if you ever watched my YouTube channel 😝) but when it comes to characters, make them get right to the point. Don't beat around the bush. The thing about characters is that their time is restricted to some many pages, so you have to get everything packed in tight like a suitcase about to be weighed at the airport. Don't bring boring shoes you don't need.

4. Remember each character has his/her own dialogue pattern. Your best friend or crazy aunt use specific words, speak in a certain manner and respond in a predictable way. For example, I once worked with a girl who never went to the 'bathroom' but the 'facilities'. Some people pronounce certain words incorrectly, others use a lot of slang or swearing in their conversations. Depending on where they live, their status and first language, you might expect vastly different dialogue patterns. Someone who grew up in the UK, for example, may use a word that has a vastly different meaning in North America. A middle-aged woman who works in an office setting may speak differently than a 20-year-old man who works in a garage. Many of my characters are from Latino countries so it's not uncommon for a little Spanish to get mixed into their conversations.

5. Don't overthink conversations. Just like in real life, if you overthink a conversation or speech, it tends to sound too stiff. The same goes for characters. Stay balanced and go with the flow when writing dialogue. See where it takes you. Sometimes, it might actually move the story in an unexpected direction and as I always say, if you don't expect things to go a certain way, neither does the reader!

In the end, you want sharp dialogue that's dramatic and honest. Make the conversation pop!

Friday, July 19, 2019

The super crazy last chapter 😜

Don't let the last chapter fall flat; make it a wild ride till the end.

The problem that I noticed (while reading fiction) is that it often has a predictable pattern. The story usually builds up to a climax eventually resolving, only to fade away in the final chapter. I find the last chapter in a lot of books is simply tying up loose ends and for that reason, I often skim through then read the last paragraph. It would be the same as watching a season of your favorite television show and having no drama or action in the final episode but just the characters sitting around having a chat and hugging a lot.

Something that I've learned along the way is that you need action, suspense, and surprises even as the book winds down. And yes, that includes the last chapter. Contrary to whatever your high school creative writing teacher taught you, finishing a book shouldn't simply be about tying a pretty bow on it.

In my current series, I try to keep things crazy right till the end. I've finished books with shootouts and suspense but probably most importantly, I've left a lot of questions hanging in the wind. There's always an implication that something more is always around the corner. I want readers to finish my books and wonder about the characters. I want to set their imaginations on fire. And to me, that's the most important aspect of all.

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Choosing the right words πŸ€“

Words create an impression with the reader, whether it is the narrative or the specific wording that a character uses. It's always important to consider the character, environment and the mood involved when choosing your words.

In my Hernandez series, I'm very aware of the words I choose when setting a scene and especially in dialogue. Since the book is about bloodthirsty criminals, it only makes sense that the words surrounding them represent that very mood. Powerful words are essential right from the first paragraph and it's important that the protagonist sets the tone for the reader. We need to get a feel for the personality that is about to take us on a journey so we can be prepared for the adventure we're about to embark on.

It's not uncommon for me to go back and change the wording either dialogue or the general story simply because I feel there's a better way to communicate to the reader. Having said that, I don't think writers need to overthink words and become too analytical. Perfection isn't a requirement.

It's also important to consider what is appropriate for your reader. What age group are you writing for? Who's your audience? What kind of feeling do you want to leave readers with? A book that falls under the suspense genre would read differently than one that is a romance novel.

Also, what is the character's background? Educational level? Where do they come from? The dialogue varies, depending on where you live, what actually is your first language and as I mentioned earlier, your age.

If you're new to writing, don't let this intimidate you. You can always go back and change the words later. Regarding characters, the more you get to know them, the easier it is to automatically know the dialogue they would use (think of people you know well and how you come to be familiar with their dialogue patterns)

Remember, when writing a book, essay or article, words are all you have to work with so make them count.