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.

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Writing a pilot episode based on my book series πŸ€©πŸ“ΊπŸ‘

Why does your favorite book seem so jumbled when it's turned into a movie or television show? Now that I'm writing a pilot episode, I'm starting to understand why things play differently on screen than pages.

When I first started to write the pilot episode for my book series about Jorge Hernandez and his foot soldiers, I was a tad overwhelmed. I had no idea where to start. I briefly considered taking a screenwriting course but the cost to learn this skill seemed a bit insane so I decided instead to look online to see what was available for free or, at at the very least, a more reasonable price. The first person I found was a lovely lady called Word Dancer (who I highly recommend to all writers regardless of their goals) who answered anything I could possibly ask regarding writing a script and getting into the film business. I literally watched every one of her videos and soaked it all in.

The best piece of advice from Word Dancer (although, there was freakin' tons of great information!) was if you want to write scripts, start off by reading scripts. I followed this advice and quickly found the pilot episode for some of my favorite shows including Ray Donovan, The Sopranos, Six Feet UnderThe Ozarks, Narcos, Dexter, and Sons of Anarchy. I studied them carefully, noting the formats while considering the advice in Word Dancer's videos. I made a lot of notes and then jumped in to start my script!

The first thing I noticed what that the pilot episodes requires a lot of from the writer. You need to capture and captivate immediately. You need to introduce your protagonist and give a strong sense of who he/she is, showing all dimensions. You need to have a lot going on so the viewer doesn't get bored. You need to have a unique voice so you aren't simply copying everything else out there (this includes dialogue). You have to demonstrate what kind of show it is so the audience knows what to expect. In essence, you need to grab the viewer by the throat and make them want more.

Since the pilot would start with my book, The Devil is Smooth Like Honey, it meant that the first scene would take place in a hotel. However, this concerned me because I thought this would stick the characters in the same place too long and I felt they needed to be in motion in order to keep things more lively and build up anticipation. In the book, Jorge meets Paige NoΓ«l in a provocative way and the chemistry builds between them through the pages. However, I felt they needed to move around in the pilot, so I had Jorge's attempt to seduce Paige when she suddenly has to leave to carry out an assassination that had to be done that night. In the book, I kind of feel this would've been too much too soon considering Paige was a new character in the series and it wouldn't give time to properly learn about her, however, in a television show, you would learn about her through her actions in each scene so this enabled me to demonstrate her strong, powerful side whereas, in the book, I would use Jorge's observations and conversation to do the same.

It's almost like in a television show or movie, you have to go to greater lengths to drive the point home. You can't be subtle but more like a bull in a china shop. You have to be a little louder, a little more forceful, a little more dramatic and a little more exaggerated. Why? Because it's captivating. It creates anticipation and excitement.

Of course, film and TV are known to cut out a lot from books they are based on, which I can already see I will be doing too. Now that I'm learning about the process, I think it's mainly because of time and budget restraints and also because certain scenes may fall flat on the screen. Also, in a book, you tend to tell the story more than on a show, where you're showing it.

Having said that, I do believe that a movie or television show based on a book should stick very closely to the novel or it simply pisses people off. I can think of one particular movie I watched (after reading the book) that infuriated me. A major, dramatic point in the book was completely changed in the movie, causing me to throw my hands up in the air with a major 'What the fuck!' moment. I know that a lot of factors play into movies (including who funds them) so I can imagine the script went through a lot of hands before coming to fruition.

I still have a lot to learn in this process so this is to be continued.....

Thursday, July 4, 2019

Why do you always write about criminals? πŸ”ͺ

One of my most asked questions is why I write about criminals. For those not familiar with my books, this inquiry springs from the fact that the majority of my books are based on the criminal POV rather than the more socially acceptable, commonly used perspective of the detective, lawyer or, in other words, the 'good guy'. Essentially, what I'm saying is that I prefer to write about the 'bad guy' or more the anti-hero type characters.

To be honest, it started innocently enough. In fact, this was the series that was never meant to be a series, starting with a book called We're All Animals. In it, I explored a character named Chase Jacobs and his coming of age problems that led him down a dark path that linked up with the people he now refers to as his associates.  Of course, it had to be introduced slowly, carefully and in such a way that showed how people could find themselves in this world even if it was never their intention.

I love writing from an alternate POV rather than the more common ones used in books. It's interesting to explore a character that is normally viewed from a third-person perspective, instead, showing all the dimensions and exploring the many layers. It's very easy to just throw everybody into a simplified category but it takes a little more effort to consider where that person came from, what their experiences have been and what drives them. People are vastly more complicated than some writers would have you believe.

There's also something invigorating about sinister characters. It can be quite addictive and fascinating to write about them. It allows my imagination to go to all kinds of dark places that you simply can't explore with a primarily law-abiding and 'good' characters. And if you do, it becomes the central theme of the book rather than a component. For example, if a 'good' character kills another character, it becomes the plot, with the protagonist attempting to understand and justify their behavior. If a 'bad' guy kills someone, it's not such a shock and just becomes another event in the book.

And at the end of the day, when you're a writer, shouldn't you be searching for different scenarios, alternate voices and most importantly, intriguing storylines that aren't following the same, tired format?

Saturday, June 29, 2019

Why is the first paragraph so important? πŸ€“

You know what they say about first impressions? Especially in today's world where everything is fast-paced and people are much too rushed to give much of anything a second try, it's more important than ever to capture a reader quickly...but what does that mean exactly?

The obvious answer is to have an engaging first chapter. This doesn't mean it has to be perfect. It also doesn't mean it has to be over the top or gimmicky. What it means is that you want the reader to get a sense of what they're getting themselves into. What is the theme of this book? What kind of genre does it fall under?

As a writer, the first paragraph is like meeting someone new for the first time. If you want to make a good impression, you'll probably throw on some makeup, hopefully, some clean clothes and put a little extra attention on your hair. With books, it's really about pulling someone in and showing them a glimpse into your character's world.

As an example, in my 11th book, The Devil May Lie, I talk about power in the first paragraph or more specifically, the importance of power in our world. What does it mean? Why do people want it? I talk about how 'it starts when we're children on the playground and ends in our death'. I also say 'we lust after it as if it were the flesh of a lover'. I use specific words that are powerful as well - bold, passion, addictive, crave, roaring fire - these are words that give readers a sense of what is to come. If I were writing something about something with more of a romantic theme, I would probably choose some powerful words like 'passionate' but also gentle words that give the impression of a soft place to fall, such as comfort and warmth, things we associate with love.

Also, another thing I want to note is that I often connect the first paragraph in chapter one with the first paragraph in the final chapter (in my case, chapter 50). So once again, in The Devil May Lie, I talk about power in the last chapter. This is important because we're kind of revisiting the place we started with to see where we are on the same topic. In this last paragraph, I ask the question when do we have enough power? 'When do we cross the line? Who wins when there's nothing left to take?' My hope is that after having read the entire book, this gives you something to ponder.

The first paragraph should give readers an impression of what they can expect. Of course, you have to remember that like any relationship, you must work hard to keep the reader interested throughout the book and to live up to that first impression.

Sunday, June 16, 2019

Why my characters aren't shooting as many people 😱

Here's a spoiler alert 🚨- if you haven't already read my books, you should know that there's usually a body count. 😲I'm attempting to get away from having my characters using guns but does that mean my books are becoming less violent and why am I making these changes?

First of all, I'm tired of guns. Between mass shootings, the vast amount of television shows using them (more shows than not, I'm guessing...) and of course video games, I thought maybe we could use a bit of a break from guns.

Does that mean my books are less violent? No. In fact, I'm actually trying to find more creative ways for my characters to either get revenge, attack or hurt their adversaries without using a revolver. This isn't to say the gang in my series has tossed their guns aside, quite the contrary. I feel that they're used so often in movies, television, and books that perhaps it's time to find more interesting methods rather than relying on the easiest, most thoughtless and overused options in fiction.

In many ways, we're desensitized by guns. When a character pulls out a gun in your favorite piece of fiction or Netflix show, we hardly blink an eye because it's the norm. Sadly, it doesn't pack the same punch as it should and in turn, this doesn't keep readers or viewers on high alert. You know what keeps viewers on high alert? A machete. An ax. A chainsaw. One must be creative.

I also believe there is a certain amount of passion when a character attacks his or her victims with a more barbaric weapon. In reality, guns are somewhat lazy, when you think about it.

If you're one of my readers, don't expect things to calm down and you won't suddenly find my books in a Christian book store but you might find a few other surprises. 😏

Sunday, June 2, 2019

Let's talk about the conspiracy theories in my books 😱

My readers know to expect a few conspiracy theories in my books; but how did it get started and why do I do it?

One of my strongest motivations as a writer has always been to make people think. I know other authors are content to entertain, warm hearts and create hope with their readers; so in many ways, I guess I kind of do the complete opposite. Where other books might be a soft place to fall at the end of the day, I prefer to introduce topics that instead make my readers think, wonder and consider.

This is not to say that any conspiracy theories brought up in my books are right or wrong. In most cases, they work well with the story and cause a little more intrigue, leaving the reader some food for thought. I think it adds an element of excitement to the book and also gets the reader more involved in the story. I believe if a reader feels more involved in the story, it helps to make them feel more connected with the characters and really, isn't this what it's all about?

In the end, I'm not trying to change anyone's mind but in a world where we are conditioned to feel and assume certain things about certain topics, I think it's kind of neat to shake things up.

Friday, May 10, 2019

Moment of pause

I often talk about what inspires my writing (music, other authors, news) but what does it mean when something or someone gives me a moment of pause? What's that about?

In life, we sometimes are grabbed by a moment. It could be a conversation we have, something we notice or maybe even an image we see online. It's that moment that we find ourselves replaying in our minds later because there's something powerful that has connected with you. There's a reason.

When it comes to my writing, I often find that it's the moments I notice in television, movies, the news, in music, books or just everyday life that give me a moment of pause that often come creeping into my own writing in a powerful way. There's a reason why that one, specific moment or even split second has grabbed me and it's important to investigate and to also remind myself that art is made up of a collection of powerful moments that should stick with the reader.

One example I often give is the television show, Ray Donovan. If you're familiar with the show, you know that Donovan was brought up by a slightly rough around the edges family (who are featured on the show, as a constant reminder of that fact) and now works with the rich and famous of either LA or New York City. I had a 'moment of pause' with this specific show when I first watched Ray Donovan, dressed in an expensive suit, go to his expensive car and take out a baseball bat which he, in turn, used to beat the piss out of someone. I was captivated by this scene more than if he had just punched the guy or taken out a gun and shot him because it was completely unexpected (unpredictable) and not something I thought I'd see from a man in an Armani suit (contradiction). The bottom line is that my 'moment of pause' that really drew me in also made the show more memorable to me. When I took a deeper look, I realized it was actually the contradiction and unpredictability that captured me, therefore it was important that I also show it in my own work.

There are various other scenes in television and movies that captivate me, stuck with me over the years and I, in turn, have a goal of creating those same kinds of scenes in my books. I think there's something amazing about having a comment, a visual or even a character themselves that captivates an audience. And at the end of the day, isn't that every artist's goal?

Friday, May 3, 2019

Plant the seed 🌱

It's important that you 'plant the seed' early in a book to capture a reader. But what does that mean?

Planting a seed essentially means to create situations, obstacles and to a certain degree, some clues about what to expect in the upcoming chapters of the book. It could be in the form of foreshadowing or simply letting the reader know who your protagonist is, what he/she stands for and what kind of craziness the reader can expect.

Here's a couple of quick examples of 'planting the seed' I've done in previous books:

This is the premier book in my current series and in it, we meet Chase Jacobs. The young protagonist is very much the boy-next-door and in the early chapters, we learn that he was recently dumped by his high school sweetheart and reluctantly goes to a party to soothe his pain. While there, he is given a drug to 'mellow' him out and hooks up with a woman he isn't particularly attracted to only to later learns she's pregnant. Forced by his mother to marry this mere stranger, Chase sees all his hopes and dreams go down the drain. All this while lusting after his new BFF who tells him she's a lesbian despite the fact that he's getting some very strong signals suggesting the opposite. Add in his complicated relationship with his family, growing resentment about having no control in his own life and you got one complicated seed about to burst through the ground. 

Jorge Hernandez comes out with both barrels blazing in the 6th book of the series. Here, we learn that Jorge is discovering an ultra-conservative movement within Canada that could affect everything from his personal to professional life. He not only see proof when his daughter has a confrontation with another child at school but learns it may be creeping into the general beliefs of Canadians which could, in turn, affect his (legalized) pot business. What if laws are changed to potentially make it illegal again? After everything he's fought for to get where he has, Jorge Hernandez certainly has no intention of backing down and this becomes very clear in the first few chapters of the book. This seed is so powerful, the earth is shaking.

How important is it to plant a seed? Unless the reader has something to grab on to early on, they really have no reason to continue reading. If a few seeds are planted, they can't help but see what is about to burst through the soil. 

Friday, April 26, 2019

Can you learn from authors you don't like? 🧐

We often hear about learning from people we admire but what about ones we don't like? Can we learn from someone if we're not a fan? Is there a lesson in bad books, boring TV shows, and disappointing movies?

When I was younger, one of the authors I used to read was a well-known best-seller. I now see that her style tended to be, what I now refer to as 'formula writing' which essentially means that her books tended to follow the same pattern. The protagonist was often a beautiful, perfect woman who had money, usually a super attractive spouse, perfect children...and, well, you get the idea. Needless to say, it was difficult to feel sorry for that character when something bad came around the corner.

I grew tired of reading these predictable books but I was left with one powerful lesson: make your characters relatable. Show their insecurities, their weaknesses, air their dirty laundry and embarrassing moments. Make the reader see that they are far from perfect and demonstrate their struggles. One of the reasons why I didn't continue reading the specific author mentioned ☝🏻is because I didn't care about her characters because they were unrelatable and somewhat vacant.

In essence, this author taught me what not to do as a writer. Since that time, I've read other books that were predictable, couldn't hold my interest, had terrible dialogue or characters reacting in such a way that didn't make sense for their situations and I made a mental note not do these things. In essence, I saw it as a lesson.

Don't get me wrong. I've made mistakes too and I'm sure there's an author somewhere who's read one of my books and perhaps saw things that they wouldn't do in their own writing. And that's fine. I'm always trying to learn more, to do better and I believe that's an important part of my evolution as a writer. That's how I learn and create my own, unique style. Being open to learning is an important part of being an artist.

Although it's important (and terrific!) to have role models that we admire and want to learn from, don't forget to also pay attention to those who actually inspire the opposite feelings. Sometimes we gather some of the most valuable lessons from the most unexpected source.

Friday, April 19, 2019

Songs that inspired The Devil May Lie

Music has a powerful influence on all my books and in fact, some of my most prominent scenes are inspired by specific songs. What inspired The Devil May Lie?

I always talk about how each of my books has a soundtrack. These are the songs that inspire ideas during the writing process. In fact, some of my most powerful scenes were born out of a great song that I couldn't get out of my head. Here are a few that stand out for this particular book.

1. Master of Puppets by Metallica

This song inspired the entire book but specifically one scene toward the end, where Jorge Hernandez has to make a political speech and is confronted by a decision that could change his life.

2. Rock Superstar by Cypress Hill 

This song popped in my head a lot while writing this book. There's a power behind it and speaks to the essence of Jorge Hernandez in the political arena, where he is the rock superstar but is it what he wants?

3. Peace sells...but who's buying

This song came into mind while writing a chapter about a specific character that attempts to tell Jorge Hernandez to drop out of the political race. It doesn't go so well....

I can't imagine music not playing a roll in my writing process. In fact, there are songs that immediately remind me of specific scenes in my books. 

Friday, April 12, 2019

Do your books have social commentary? 🧐

The world is a hot mess right now so if there ever was a time for social commentary in the arts, this would be it!

I've always been a fan of social commentary in books, movies, television, and music. In fact, for me its an important part of the writing process. I love the idea of planting a few seeds for readers to ponder. I'm not doing so to change their mind but rather, to give them some food for thought. Quite often we get locked in our opinions and stubbornly refuse to see the other side but can we make a fair decision if we don't? 

When it comes to the arts, books, movies, and television are sometimes a more tangible way to process information. News stories and documentaries are often slanted, possibly more with the concern of capturing ratings. However, fictional works show the emotional side of some difficult subjects. The human being behind societal problems has a face. As they say, before you judge, walk a mile in someone else's shoes. Books, movies, and television allow you to do so.

Having said that, there are various topics and questions that writers will bring to light for the reader's consideration. For example, in my book The Devil May Lie, Paige NoΓ«l-Hernandez has concerns about her weight and references a recent magazine article that suggests women 'her age' have to work twice as hard to slip back into those favorite pair of jeans. Her husband Jorge is quick to ask if this specific article was followed by a page of ads for weight loss products. Of course, we know that advertising is often targeted and in some cases, created to make potential customers more insecure about a problem that they may not have previously considered. Welcome to the world of consumerism!

As a writer, I want my readers to think. Ideally, I would love to believe that they read my books with an open mind and heart, that their ideas may be challenged or perhaps they are relating to specific comments or chapters. I hope that the characters stay with them long after finishing the book and maybe even inspired them. I guess I want to believe that my books shake things up a bit; whether it be the reader's ideology, imagination or how they see themselves. 

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

The Devil May Lie - Let's talk about a pivotal moment in the book 😱

Up until about the halfway point of  The Devil May Lie, the format was quite similar to the previous books in the series. Not to suggest that the story was predictable however, fans have an understanding of how my characters tend to react to any given situation. For that reason, I instinctively threw a monkey wrench in the halfway point of the book, intrigued to see how things would fall into place.

I specifically chose to have a tragedy take place in an indigenous community then show a combination of racism and government neglect to demonstrate, to a more intense degree, what is actually happening with Native Canadians. The event was very difficult to write about and didn't get easier with each set of edits however, I felt it was necessary to make a point. In the story, it's this straw that broke the camels back and causes outrage throughout the country that quickly spills over to the demographic of Canadians who simply feel neglected by the government; those living in poverty, immigrants and essentially anyone who seems to have slipped off the radar. In turn, this pushes the government to do something drastic; they approach a charismatic Canadian named Jorge Hernandez to join their team.

Now, I don't have to point out the irony of dangerous criminal with blood on his hands being asked to join a political team. But you have to remember, nothing is officially 'known' by the public and therefore, they simply see a strong candidate who isn't afraid to say what he thinks on the platform. They see an immigrant, someone who calls out his own government and has risen from rags to riches, making him both relatable and inspiring at the same time. However, I feel it demonstrates how low many political parties are willing to sink in order to find a winning candidate. Perhaps it is not such a stretch to say that they would nominate the devil himself, if they thought it would result in them winning.

Thursday, March 28, 2019

Does everyone have a creative side? 🎨

Let's face it. If you're 17 years old and talk about your dreams of becoming a writer, a rock star or a painter, chances are you may not be taken as seriously as someone who talks about college, degrees and any profession that requires an intense science program. In fact, most creative professions are kind of pushed in the same category as psychics, witchcraft, meditation, and anything spiritual as being a little woo-woo. You know, it's interesting but can you make money with it?

The interesting thing is that if you're really good at any of those things, you probably can make a lot of money once you have a following. People are intrigued by psychics, artists and yes, even witchcraft, however, most people don't take them seriously and one of the reasons is because many people pursuing these areas don't either. We all know people who talked of writing a book, joining a band or studying herbs, only to flake out as soon as they realized that it takes much more time and effort than they had assumed. After all, I don't get up at 6 a.m. for the hell of it.

Believe it or not, creative pursuits require a lot of blood, sweat, and tears so overnight success is rare. There's no easy formula. If you want to be a nurse, for example, teachers can help point you in the direction of doing so. If you want to be a rock star...not so much.

For that reason, many people are discouraged to chase their creative dreams. It just seems like a long shot and unstable. It causes people to often bury their creative side with the belief that it's silly and useless. However, be reassured it's there. If you were ever a child πŸ‘Ά (and I'm guessing, you might have been ☺️) you are creative. When you were five, chances are you weren't talking about the stock market or politics but most likely were ass deep in paints, Lego or toys. There was no structure. Coloring inside the lines? What? That was crazy talk!

Coloring outside the lines as an adult is a whole other story but does it have to be? Maybe it's time to explore that creative side because it's there. I promise. Underneath criticisms you once heard for not being serious enough, not following the rules and of course, not sitting quietly, your creative side is waiting to be dug out.

Sunday, March 17, 2019

The Devil May Lie - book 6 in the Hernandez crime family series 😈

The Devil May Lie is Mima's 11th book and the 6th book in the Hernandez crime family series. In this book, Jorge Hernandez, former cartel kingpin is groomed for Canadian politics. Will the Canadian political landscape ever be the same again?

The sixth book in the Hernandez crime family series is a continuation of the murder and mayhem. Here is the summary:

With blood on his hands, Jorge Hernandez has enforced a brutal takeover of the Canadian legalized marijuana industry. Now facing opponents who want to challenge the existing laws, the former Mexican crime lord has no intentions of backing down. His brash style and sharp tongue captivate the media while behind the scenes, those who oppose him are often met by his crime family’s ruthless style of justice.

When a heartbreaking tragedy tears through the country and whispers of racism and government neglect dominates the news, Canada’s latest media darling finds himself courted by the nationally disgraced party. He has murdered, terrorized and tortured to get to the top and now he’s being groomed to lead one of the country’s political parties.

In the latest book in this brutal series, Jorge Hernandez insists that nothing is more important than the truth…and yet, the devil may lie….

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Does a weak moment make a weak character?

Just like real people, even the strongest of characters have their weak moments. Why is it important for the reader to see this contrast and as a writer, how do you demonstrate it?

First of all, the best characters are often complicated and full of contradictions. This gives them many layers and makes them seem much more 3-dimensional and realistic. After all, most of us are also complicated and full of contradictions too which leads to my second point, which is that this helps to make characters relatable to the reader. We like seeing that we aren't the only ones who are kind of messed up. Also, seeing a normally strong, larger than life character occasionally fall apart makes them much more humble. We like that. 

A perfect example would be Jolene Silva, who is my current series. In the majority of books, she's featured in, Jolene is strong, confident, powerful and someone I would describe as a femme fatale. However, at one point in this series, the Colombian bombshell reveals a very weak side to her personality that no one saw coming. She makes a series of bad decisions that places her in a very dangerous position with Jorge Hernandez and his crew. After a long, difficult road, she finally is trusted by la familia again and comes back stronger than ever. 

I love this because it shows how a character, even one who always shown a great deal of strength, can fall apart but is able to bounce back under some of the worst circumstances that life puts them in. There's something very reassuring and comforting about that fact. 

Never assume a weak moment makes a weak character. In fact, it actually makes them more human. 

Friday, February 8, 2019

Animals and Devils 🐺😈

If you're familiar with my series, you probably already noticed that the books have an animal and devil theme in the titles. But why is that?

As I talked about in previous videos, this became the series that was never meant to be a series. It started out with a book called We're All Animals in 2016 and took off with the follow-up, Always be a Wolf a few months later. This portion of the series follows protagonist Chase Jacobs who's a naive, small-town boy who has a tendency of trying to do the right thing.

And that's when things take a bit of a turn.

In the fall of 2017, the devil-themed titles start appropriately with the blood-thirsty thug Jorge Hernandez as the protagonist. The Devil is Smooth Like Honey followed the life of the Mexican narco who's about to take over the legalized pot industry in Canada. While Chase was very much the boy-next-door, Jorge is the complete opposite, demonstrating the vast differences in characters. Having Chase as an employee, both men tend to have an influence on one another as the series continues with A Devil Named Hernandez and And the Devil Will Laugh.

I've always said that I love character contrasts in books and feel that extremes have a way of balancing each other out. I'm really curious where this is going to go in the future because I see an interesting shift in both of these characters in my next book. Will Jorge bring out the bad in Chase and Chase bring out the good in Jorge or are certain aspects in their DNA to stay? What do you think?

Friday, February 1, 2019

Should characters ever be based on people you know? πŸ€”

I recently stumbled across a video where someone was recommending that writers base characters on people they know. I cringed.

I never pretend to be the expert on writing but I do feel that after a few books, I've learned a couple things along the way. Although to be honest, basing characters on people I actually know never seemed like a good idea and therefore, I never did it. To begin with, I'm assuming there would always be a paranoia of someone 'discovering' that a character was strangely like them not to mention hurt feelings, potential arguments and maybe even a few Facebook much as we all love those.

Most importantly, I feel that characters create themselves. You might have a few ideas of who they are or what they're about but in the end, characters have a tendency to form naturally as you write the story. It's kind of like having a child and deciding on the kind of personality you think they'll have; chances are, they'll soon show you that you never had a say in the first place.

Characters are complex. As a writer, you'll probably have a deeper understanding of your characters than most people in your life. You have the special ability to see inside their heart and understand what makes them tick and it makes sense because after all, you're on a long journey together.

The most interesting thing about characters is that they often are a piece of you. Just like every songwriter inserts a piece of who they are in their songs, every author tends to do the same with their characters. It's not something you think about but rather it just happens. Maybe one of your characters shares one of your biggest fears in life or your fixation for a 90s HBO series. The characters are unique but they're also you.

And really, isn't that what makes the writing process so amazing?

Friday, January 25, 2019

Let's talk about Paige NoΓ«l-Hernandez 🧘🏼‍♀️

Paige NoΓ«l-Hernandez is the assassin wife of Jorge Hernandez and makes her first appearance in The Devil is Smooth Like Honey and is also a prominent figure in A Devil Named Hernandez and And the Devil Will Laugh.

What I love about Paige is that she's incredibly calm and balanced regardless of the situation. She manages to keep a little sanity to the otherwise erratic group of characters and yet, you're left wondering if maybe she's a little too calm in various situations. I guess it's the meditation. 

Paige enters the series (and meets her husband Jorge) in a very unique and dramatic way. Although it's probably a situation that seems absolutely insane, for some reason the two find themselves drawn to one another and start a very fiery, intense relationship which dominates this series almost as much as....well, the violence. There's a strength to their relationship that can't be denied and in many ways is admirable. 

Of course, if you're looking for a fairytale princess meets prince storyline, the relationship between Jorge and Paige Hernandez might horrify you.

Friday, January 18, 2019

The loyalty factor πŸ‘ŠπŸΌ

One of the aspects that I think people find most appealing about my current series is the loyalty factor. Actually, as the writer, this is one of the aspects that I like the best too. There's something to be said about a group of people who can trust each other, literally, with their life. We find comfort when watching or reading about these relationships because loyalty is a trait we respect.

I feel that in today's society people don't necessarily feel that they have loyalty in their lives. If we're lucky, we might have a very small group of people that we would even put in that category and even then, many of us have also fallen into the 'blind faith' scenario, only to find ourselves shocked when someone lets us down. We've seen the disappointment in relationships, friendships, employers and family, just to name a few. To a point, loyalty might not only be a hot commodity but it might also feel like a rare one, making it even more precious.

When I think about shows that have been popular over the years, I notice that character's loyalty to one another has been prevalent. It doesn't matter if it's friends living together or a group of gangster/mobster characters, the basis of their relationship is often loyalty whether the protagonist is dealing with a broken heart or a broken body. It doesn't matter if these relationships are dysfunctional most of the time; what matters is that when needed, these people show up for one another.

I'm not sure if this is a trait that can often be explored in books since loyalty is something that is best demonstrated over time. The beauty of writing a series is that I've had the opportunity to create and show the strength of these relationships through situations that put the characters to the test. And when you think about it, real life isn't all that different.

Friday, January 11, 2019

Let's talk about Jolene Silva πŸ‘„

Jolene Silva first popped up in this series in the latter part of We're All Animals and has continued to be part of the cast of characters in Always be a Wolf, The Devil is Smooth Like Honey, A Devil Named Hernandez and the latest, And the Devil Will Laugh.

The interesting aspect of this character was how difficult it was to learn anything about her. She was always a mystery and even as the writer, I was having difficulty pulling anything out of her secret world. As it turns out, she had a lot of surprises that would come out as the series grew. We would eventually learn about some of her vices as well as see her more vulnerable side.

What I love about Jolene is that she is strong and even though she hits some low points, this is a character that always rises above everything and comes back stronger. Jolene is very passionate about what she believes in and she always does what she perceives as the right thing even though many times, she chooses to do so in secret rather than to share with her tribe. I think that many of us can hide within ourselves and try to avoid sharing our fears and struggles but in the end, just like Jolene, discover that there's more support for us than we originally believed.

I think this is an amazing character that creates a nice balance within the group. Although she certainly makes a lot of mistakes along the way and risks her own life, there's just something about Jolene Silva, a strength, that always makes her rise back to the top.

Friday, January 4, 2019

Do fairy tale endings really exist?

What's a 'fairytale ending' exactly and do people want them? More importantly, why you'll probably never find one the majority of my books.

This story all started a couple of weeks ago when I received an email from a stranger, let's call her a 'fanemy'. Essentially, in it, she said that she had 'tried' to read my latest book, And the Devil Will Laugh but couldn't through it because she found it troubling that the protagonist, was in essence, not the good guy. Not only was he not the good guy, but he was also winning at being bad.

Of course, this is an unusual concept in books because we are used to seeing a very specific concept in most fiction. There's a protagonist and he/she is the 'good' guy/girl. Then there's another character, usually the 'bad' guy/girl and of course, regardless of the struggles along the way, the 'good guy/girl' always wins. This is what I refer to as the 'fairytale ending'.

Obviously, it's not a 'fairytale' ending in the way you are probably thinking of right off the bat. It's no Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Disney cute ending but rather, nicely folded together that is the fictional version of a hot, cozy bath. It makes people feel good about the fact that the 'good guy/girl' won and the 'bad guy got what he/she deserved'...and they all lived happily ever after.

Or did they?

This is the part where I come in and shake things up. See, I'm not into that kind of ending. I find them a tad predictable and boring. I also find them somewhat unrealistic. Personally, I would prefer to give people something to think about after they finish a book. Kind of in the same way as the final episode of The Sopranos left me with something to think about when the screen went black with no further explanation. This pissed off a lot of people but you know what? Till this day, I still think about that episode and debate with myself about what that meant exactly. I've discussed it with friends and listened to their thoughts on the subject. Had this been the usual, happily ever after ending, I probably would've forgotten it by now or even worse, stopped caring.

The thing is that we, as people, are complex and so is life. Things usually don't end up all good or all bad and people are definitely not saints or sinners. Many people would prefer things were that simplified but they are not. It might work for some people but it doesn't work for me.