Showing posts with label Mima. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Mima. Show all posts

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Should we allow readers to be our censorship police? πŸš“

I always tell the story about a woman who criticized my first book, Fire. She said 'If I took out all the F-words, your book would be half the size'. Of course, she was kind of a bitch on a good day, so I wasn't surprised when she made this snarly remark to me back in 2010. If you've read any of my books since that time, you already know that her thoughts did little to sway me and I continue to use a lot of profanity and graphic content in my books.

I don't do this for shock value (which has also been suggested by one particularly gnarly reviewer back in the day) but because it is my style. This is how I choose to write. I don't exactly sit down in front of my laptop and think 'what can I write that will shock people the most' but I do follow my writing instinct and admittedly, it sometimes takes me down a dark, twisted and even questionable road but one thing can be assured, I'm never bored. To me, this is a good sign. If the writer isn't bored, chances are good the reader won't be either.

The truth is that only in very extreme situations is a writer going 'too far'. There are 'how to' books out there that would make the most insensitive person a little ill 🀒and although there are some that definitely cross the line, for the most part, we have to consider freedom of expression. And the really beautiful thing about freedom is that it kind of goes both ways. I'm free to write what I want and you're free to not read it if you believe it's too offensive. πŸ˜‰


Friday, September 28, 2018

Start your book with a bang! The importance of chapter one 🀩

Chapter one is your chance to grab readers by the throat and make them want more!

We see it all the time in television show pilots. It's up to that original episode to captivate its audience and make them coming back for another week. Something has to shake things up in order to create an interest with the viewer and books are no different. 

So what do people want to see? It really depends. Some people are drawn in by action, adventure, drama, violence, and sex, while others might be intrigued by a unique character, an unexpected action or perhaps the protagonist is going through something that connects with the audience. The main point is that the start of anything, whether it be a movie, book or television show must make the reader or viewer want more. 

I always say that you should start chapter one in the middle of something relevant to the rest of the book. For example, in my last book And the Devil Will Laugh, the protagonist and his associate are visiting the (soon to be) editor of a large newspaper in hopes of swaying him to write articles in favor of both himself and a political candidate he is backing. Meanwhile, across town, the protagonist's wife is murdering the current editor, who didn't go along with his previous wishes. This ties in with the rest of the book because violence and media manipulation are a huge part of the entire book. Also, this is in the middle of the action. I didn't start chapter one with the characters discussing their plan to bully the media or the protagonist having breakfast before he left the house, I jump right into the action. 

Catching a reader's attention is very important. With so many other books, the Internet and of course, Netflix as ways to be entertained, readers can easily pass up on your novel and move on to something else; so give them a good reason to not want to put it down.




Monday, September 24, 2018

A Spark Before the Fire 🎸

The character Jimmy Groome originally showed up in my first book Fire in 2010 and later became the protagonist in A Spark Before the Fire, a few years later. Although the two books are connected, they overlap more than one being the continuation of the other. For example, in A Spark before the Fire, Jimmy's story starts at age 10, when something traumatic happens to his character. However, the book follows him through his teenage years and into his early twenties, when he meets Tarah, the protagonist from Fire.

The really cool thing is that you are able to see Jimmy's point of view to a few things mentioned in Fire, where the protagonist is a woman. As you can imagine, they often see things from vastly different perspectives.

Here's a brief summary of the book:

Jimmy Groome never really believed that his life was worth anything. An overweight and unpopular teen, it takes a suicide attempt to bring a traumatic childhood experience into sharp focus. With some encouragement from family and a counselor, Jimmy picks up a guitar and it quickly becomes obvious that he has a natural talent. After losing weight and joining a band, Jimmy goes from being a shy and insecure child to an outgoing and self-destructive young adult. In a world where sex, drugs and rock n' roll goes hand in hand Jimmy’s future is uncertain.
In this prequel to Fire, we follow Jimmy Groome on his dark path, where he decides if he'll ignite the fire inside - or if he’ll let it burn out and fade away.


Sunday, September 23, 2018

The Rock Star of Vampires πŸ§›‍♀️

The Rock Star of Vampires was my third book and my first time I tackled the topic of vampires. I would later follow it up with Her Name is Mariah. 


With this book, I explored the idea that perhaps vampires weren't so different from everyday people; with only a few exceptions, one of which was their need to drink blood. I compared it to most people's need for specific vitamins in order to maintain a balance. Also, my vampires had heightened senses. For example, they would be able to see the pollution on trees, have enhanced taste buds and the ability to hear sounds from miles away.

Here is a quick synopsis of the book:

Did Hollywood get it wrong? A year after transforming into a mortal vampire, Ava Lilith continues to have a lackluster life. The new dietary requirements and the intensifying of her senses aside, she continues to face unhappiness rather than the glamorous and provocative lifestyle that television and movies would suggest. She then learns of an underground society of immortal vampires, led by the mysterious 'rock star of vampires' Cloaked in shadow, this Immortal sect controls the major powers of the world - from business and finance to science and politics - all manipulated for personal gain and to keep their existence concealed. Ava finds herself drawn to this secret world where she could live forever and pursue all her dreams. But what will she lose, in order to gain immortality?



Her Name is Mariah πŸ§›‍♀️

Her Name is Mariah is the second of my two vampire books. The first one was The Rock Star of Vampires and it received such a warm reception, I was inspired to follow up with one of the more prominent characters, Mariah Nichols. 

Mariah Nichols was adaptable. She lived through her parent's bitter divorce, a childhood of neglect and the discovery that her only sibling was transgender – so the concept of turning into a mortal vampire was just one more adjustment in an already chaotic life.
But when tragedy rips through Mariah's heart, she realizes what it takes to survive in the world. She must become like an animal and run on instincts not emotions, or so she thought.
Her name is Mariah, and this is her story.









Saturday, September 22, 2018

Different Shades of the Same Color πŸ’™πŸ’šπŸ’œ❤️

Different Shades of the Same Color was my 5th book.


It all started when Natasha Parsons hit her head - in a very undignified manner- at her uncle's political fundraiser. Suddenly, she finds herself exiled to the country and discovers some surprising truths about both her family and her own life. In a world of prejudice and judgment, Natasha quickly learns that we are all different shades of the same color, but is she ready to accept the darkness that lurks around the corner?  

The story was a slight diversion from my other books. A young woman who came across as whimsical and possibly flighty fluttered through the book in a series of crazy adventures until the shocking end. 


Although the character of Chase Jacobs made a brief appearance in this book, he would turn up again in We're All Animals, with an explanation for his unusual predicament. 

This was a bit of an unusual book that captured a lot of attention when it came out in both the media and with fans. 










Thinking about doing a video blog and actually doing it! 🎬

I wasn't exactly comfortable recording my first video blogs. In fact, I barely breathed while recording the first several videos but I also recognized that this was a challenge I had to take on. It was for my writing and therefore, necessary that I get comfortable talking about my writing.

Over 80 videos later, I'm probably a little too comfortable since recording the video below, however, there are still things to learn. With each video, I see what I can improve. It's really the best way to learn.

The beauty of recording a video is that people can see who you really are and if you do so without editing or overproducing, it looks much more authentic. The idea of perfecting my makeup, figuring out perfect lighting and all these other things seems like a waste of time for a short video that really, is just a way to communicate about my writing to those who are interested. I'm not trying to become a television or Internet star. This is simply to talk about my books and answer some questions that I'm regularly asked.

Having said that, I know people talk about doing videos and it never gets beyond the talking stage. I think most of the time it's a lack of confidence or maybe even not any real interest in doing the work. Doing these videos is relatively easy, however, you have to be ready to jump in front of the webcam and not overthink every detail. You have to consider your content; not which shirt to wear. If anyone is watching your videos and are more concerned with your appearance, chances are they aren't really interested in the topic you're discussing anyway. (unless you're actually talking about fashion, makeup or hair)

The best tip I can give anyone interested in recording a video is to simply do it. It doesn't matter if it's perfect or if you even share it with the world, you just have to try.


Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Let's Help One Another! 🀝

Independent artists and small business owners have a lot in common. They're both working hard to get noticed (often as a side project along with a job) and don't really have much money to invest in advertising. It's a struggle - but it's a struggle that's filled with passion. Anyone who has a side project probably isn't doing it for money alone because as any new business owner or indie artist will tell you, it takes time to show a profit. They'll probably also tell you that they wouldn't be doing it if they didn't love it.

Somewhere between the time I published my first and second book, I had a friend insist I was crazy. Not to suggest she wasn't totally wrong but her specific reason was that I invested in a book and advertising and wasn't making stacks of cash back. To her, I was wasting my time. Here's a spoiler alert; we weren't friends much longer. πŸ˜„

We have to follow our passion. It's not just for potential financial gains but the personal growth stemming from the challenges and the many learning opportunities along the way. Had I never written a book, would I even be the same person? Where would I be now? Would I still be friends with that imbecile I mentioned in the last paragraph? I can't even imagine.

Artists and small business owners need to work together and try to help one another out. Be open-minded and know that by helping someone else, you're indirectly helping yourself too. To a degree, it is an unselfish act but it also makes you feel pretty good to give a hand to someone you know has been working hard to get ahead. Always be open to new ideas. Maybe you never considered (or wanted to consider) having a YouTube channel but another artist suggests you start a project together. Maybe another business owner wants to collaborate together on a promotion. Hear people out and consider their ideas. You never know where it might lead.

Another great tip is to look into Buy Me a Coffee. This is a great way for people to 'buy you a coffee' through a donation in order to help you have a slightly smoother ride on the road to success.

Follow your dreams because without them, what do we really have?


Tuesday, September 18, 2018

What are my books about? πŸ€”

One of the most commons questions I'm asked is what my books are about. You would think this would be one of the easiest questions to answers however, it is somewhat complex to tackle.

As it turns out, there are a lot of subjects that I cover in each book. For example, my first two books are about rock stars...but they are about so much more. For example, Fire is about the commercialization of the music industry, the unexpected stress and pressures of fame and the reality of our obsession with celebrity.

I later wrote two books about vampires. Just as with the last example, the books weren't just about vampires.  In The Rock Star of Vampires, for example, I talk about how this group of people is essentially like the rest of us except that they need to drink blood in order to live. It is like a vitamin to them. You discover their challenges and attributes that aren't always so glamorous. I also discuss their struggle with these sudden changes in their body and how they view the world. There's so much more going on than just being vampires; issues with family, friends and life. As it turns out, being a vampire doesn't automatically solve all your problems.

My last series is about organized crime/narcos. As with the other examples, these books are also about many other things; loyalty, family, health, social issues like racism and so much more.

No book is ever just about one thing and in fact, most books are vastly complex when you really try to break them down.




It's all about energy! ⚡️

How important is the balance of energy between characters in a book?

Some characters have a high energy level whereas, other characters are a more low energy. The key is to have the right mix in order to balance everything out.

I learned this lesson after writing my first book, Fire in 2009. The book was about a band and right off the bat, there was an obvious imbalance of power between the characters. The protagonist, Tarah appeared to be on her own against two other band members whereas, a fourth band member wouldn't get involved in the dispute. In comes a fifth character that automatically jumps on Tarah's side and causes a more balanced playing field within the book. This doesn't mean there has to be one side against another but a general balance of energy.

Another example would be the couple in my latest book, And the Devil Will Laugh. Jorge and Paige Hernandez are very similar in some ways, yet vastly different in others. Personality wise, they are worlds apart. Jorge is loud, blunt, abrupt and aggressive whereas his wife Paige is quiet, soft, calm and fair. The two balance each other out in many ways which works in their various scenes together.

When you think about it, real life isn't so different. There is always an energy dynamic.



Monday, September 17, 2018

How did I get started writing? πŸ’»

People often ask me how I started writing. My story probably that original but here goes...

I was a huge fiction fan as a child (Oh! Those days at the Bookmobile back in the 80s!) and eventually began to jot down some of my own stories. Not to suggest they were elegantly written by any stretch of the imagination but the point is that I let my creative side out because I thought it was fun. Eventually, I started to write little 'newspapers' called 'M News' which featured cutout images from magazines and various flyers to accompany some zany story that I would throw together. I can't remember any of the stories now just the basic format.

Later I moved on to writing longer stories but I think I was just dabbling in writing. My imagination was pretty big but I wasn't great at putting it all together yet. I think I simply enjoyed daydreaming.

At 16 I wrote my first full-length manuscript, a teenage drama that seemed more scandalous and fun than anything I was reading at the time. I feel like I may have sent it off to publishers but I don't recall if I heard anything back. If I did, it was definitely a rejection. 

I stopped writing after that point for a number of years. In fact, it was well into my adulthood that I decided to return to college to take business (why? Don't ask!) and within a very short period of time realized that it simply wasn't for me. I also realized that what I really wanted to do was write.

I ended up taking a creative writing course and then starting my first book, Fire, which was published in 2010. 


Thursday, September 13, 2018

Why Women Rule the World (or at least, why they should) πŸ‘ΈπŸΌ

Do women rule the world? Maybe not quite yet but there's something to be said about a strong female character, whether it be in books, television or movies.

Now, I'm not saying that females have to be tough as nails all the time. I'm not even sure if that is realistic when talking about any characters; male or female. However, I think there is a happy medium somewhere between Cruella de Vil and Snow White. I don't think women find soft, weak characters a fair representation of who we are as a gender.

I think it's important that female are neck and neck with male characters. They should be confident, have self-esteem and be intelligent. They should be independent and empowered. Most of all, they shouldn't feel any guilt or shame for showing strength. 

I recently watched a television show that portrays women as weak. I know that for this particular program, it makes sense and serves as more of a warning than an accurate portrayal however, it was hard to watch. Actually, it was somewhat infuriating. It's not something I could ever do as a writer. Then again, maybe this would be a good challenge for me. 



What do I learn from characters? 🀨

What do we learn from characters and how does this connect with our own lives? Do I always agree with my character's decisions? Why is it important to follow them along on their journey with no judgment?

To begin with, characters can teach us a lot about life. Just as with life, sometimes you have to let go of the wheel and let the characters take over and see where it takes you. In everyday life, it's usually a lot easier if we do the same. Not to say that you should be lying around on your couch waiting for an opportunity to come to the door but rather, that sometimes it is better to not be overly controlling about your day. We often have a 'to do' list that is unreasonably long and then get discouraged when we can't check everything off. To a degree, the same thing can be said of characters and plots. You can't force them ahead but rather, let them move at their own speed.

Having said that, my books tend to move very fast. Of course, they don't always go in the direction that I had expected but if a character surprises me along the way, that also means that my reader will most likely be surprised too and isn't that we all kind of want?





Love, Romance and Fictional Couples ❤️

A romance writer, I am not, however you will find some love connections in a few of my books, specifically my most recent series involving a group of gangster-type personalities. This may not seem like the most natural place to find such characters but then again, isn't that what makes things a little bit more interesting?

Someone once commented on how Jorge Hernandez and Paige NoΓ«l-Hernandez were the 'twisted couple' of the literary world and I certainly can't argue with that point. The couple showed up in The Devil is Smooth Like Honey and have continued to be together in A Devil Named Hernandez and And the Devil Will Laugh. The pair didn't exactly meet in the most conventional manner (I don't want to spoil the surprise πŸ˜‰) but because of their shared attraction to depravity, their connection was a natural one.

What I love about this couple is that they are equals. Both are strong, vicious and slightly sadistic in their ways but there is also a soft side; Paige meditates and does yoga while Jorge has been known to have a very soft spot with his daughter, Maria. The couple is vastly different in personality. Jorge is loud, obnoxious and blunt whereas Paige is soft, quiet and calmer, however, this is what makes them work. They balance each other out yet neither feels the need to change the other. Perhaps this is why people find them so endearing.


Why it's important to see through the character's eyes πŸ‘

One of the really cool aspects of writing for me has been able to get inside a character's head. I love being able to see things through their point of view, to understand where they are coming from due to their experiences and being able to demonstrate this to the reader. There's something really awesome about seeing through someone else's eyes and I wish everyone could do it more in everyday life. It's really easy to judge or put people in categories but it's much more difficult to step back and get a sense of understanding; then again, that's possibly why most people don't make the effort.

With characters, you simply have no choice but to understand and appreciate their journey. This is probably one of the biggest lessons I've learned from writing and probably one that I apply to my everyday life. Actually, when I first started to write as a teenager, I remember that as one of the key reasons why the whole process appealed to me. I felt there wasn't enough understanding of other people and that through characters, we could all open our eyes a little wider and perhaps show some compassion as opposed to ignorance.

Fast forward to years later and I think this lesson is even more relevant than ever. When we look at our world today, we definitely see a strong disconnect, a lot of judgment and even more so, a vast divide. One of the beautiful things about the characters I write about is that they come from many different backgrounds and experiences and I make great efforts to show how this relates to their current situations.

Interesting enough, real life isn't that much different if we take the time to investigate.





Wednesday, September 12, 2018

How do you get your ideas for books? πŸ’­

Probably one of the most common questions that I'm asked is how I get my ideas for books. It's not an easy one to address but here goes!

Generally, I write about topics that interest me. I don't think about what is popular or what I think other people might like to read; I write about things that I'm passionate about, that intrigues me. For example, my first couple of books were about rock stars because I love music. My second two were about vampires because I found the topic intriguing (and specifically, wondered what if vampires were different than how they're portrayed on television and movies?) and finally, I started to write about gangster and criminals. This subject intrigued me because I was drawn to the antihero concept, however, the longer I write, the more I question how it relates to our current world. With all the corruption, collusion and everything else we are seeing in the news, it's becoming more and more evident that it's not always clear who the 'good' and 'bad' guys are anymore.

Having said that, more specifically, regarding chapter to chapter details, I mainly follow my instincts. I have a lot of snippets of conversations and scenes that show up in my mind and I immediately jot them down and eventually they find a place in one of my books. Often I have no idea how or why until it actually happens.

Most of the time, I simply follow the storyline and the characters to see where they take me. Characters have their own unique personalities and like people in everyday life, you can often predict how they will react in any given situation. That in itself usually moves a story in the direction that it's meant to go.

My ideas come to me all the time. The key is to be open to everything without questioning it. In the end, it usually finds a place in a book.




Tuesday, September 11, 2018

What are my books about? πŸ€”

One of the most common questions I get asked is what my books are about. I always struggle to answer this question because it's really difficult to accurately sum up all my books in a few short sentences. So, here goes.

My books tend to be dark fiction. I cover a lot of topics in my stories, especially areas that are controversial like Big Pharma, corruption, collusion, racist and white supremacy, just to name a few. I want to give readers something to think about, to consider as well as also entertain.

I make it a point to have my books move along quickly. A lot of novels are kind of slow and steady but I feel like people want to be grabbed by the throat and pulled right into the story. People are used to watching fast-paced television shows with a lot of drama, a lot of characters and non-stop action, so in my mind, books must compete. When I'm writing my books, I see them like a television show running in my head, so I write them accordingly. I believe that is where books are going in the future.


So what do I write about? I like to think I write about cool topics; vampires, rock stars, gangsters, all the sexy areas the top television shows centre on. We love the antihero these days much more than we love the boy next door. We love characters that jump off the page, that are full of passion and excitement. And why should we settle for anything less? 

My books are for people who like to be challenged and love action. I can tell you one thing for sure; I don't write books that your grandmother's going to be reading. 🀭

How shocking!??!! 😱

We all love a good shock - well, in our books and movies, not so much in real life. There's nothing like a great twist in a story to keep the reader staying up late at night. The goal is to keep you interested, keep you turning the pages and excited about the story ahead.

Having said that, it's not for shock value. That's a whole other thing. I've been accused of writing something purely for shock value as if it were merely a way to capture attention. In fact, my goal is to simply follow the story and see where it takes me. As it turns out, my imagination takes me to some pretty wild places. I guess that means it works out well for both the writer and the reader! 😜

If you ever check out my Twitter account, you'll see a line in my bio that says it all Buckle up! You're in for one hell of a ride. I'm proud of that fact. I think that's what makes a story great. Books, just like life, shouldn't be boring. It should make your heart race just a little bit faster...


It's All About Perception πŸ€”

We all have our own unique perception. Two people can look at the same picture, watch a movie or read a book and interpret it differently and that's ok. We all judge or see things according to our own, individual experiences and opinions. For example, someone who's had a violent past may cringe at the idea of watching a movie filled with bloodshed while someone else might thrive on the same film.

For that reason, I don't think authors should be offended when people don't like their writing. In fact, it doesn't matter if you're a bestseller or a new author, fresh off the presses, there's going to people who connect with your work and others who simply aren't interested. It depends on your choice of topics, your style of writing and as I said in the last paragraph,  even their own experiences in life that color how they view the world. And that's ok. You don't have to be for everyone.

It's just a matter of perception.

I've also had people read my books and interpret them very differently than how I had intended. I've had readers miss crucial points and others still who didn't like certain characters. Of course, on the flip side, I've had readers that totally understood and connected with the plot, noticed things that even I had overlooked and had a fascination with specific characters.

Unfortunately, many writers (and artists in general) spend more time focusing on the negative and unpleasant rather than the positive. I guess that's human nature. We zero in on the criticisms and to a point, that's a good thing because it's sometimes a learning curve or a lesson for us. Other times it's irrelevant and not something we should spend any time overthinking.


Why Editing Almost Made me Quit Writing 😩

I think every writer goes through a phase where they want to quit writing. There are numerous reasons for this but for me, it was editing.

With my first book, I hired a professional editor. I paid a lot of money to have my work fine-tuned and, I thought, perfected. How did that work out?

Actually, I had readers complain about the errors and grammar. I was not pleased.

With my second book, rather than hire a professional editor, I had a few people with a good eye to edit my book for me. One of these people actually complained about how my first book had many 'distracting' errors, so I thought this would be the perfect person to help. How did that go?

People complained about the errors and grammar.

By this point, I wanted to quit writing. I tried the two logical ways to resolve this issue only to get shit on regardless, so clearly I was hesitant to try again.

Did I mention that most of my biggest critics were other writers?

At any rate, I feel I've since worked out the kinks. Now that I decided to not allow these criticisms from holding me back from doing what I love, this seems to be less and less of a problem. Having said that, I will make a few suggestions for other writers about to start the editing process.


  1. Check grammar, punctuation, spelling...you know the routine. I would suggest you also use something like Grammarly and I've also used Polishmywriting.com. Sometimes these sites catch things you might miss. 
  2. Check for any unnecessary words. For example, I have a tendency to overuse the word 'just'; so I will go through my manuscript to see when it can get deleted. There are many other words like 'really' and I think 'always' is another one. I would do a Google search to see what other overused or unnecessary words you can cut out. 
  3. Does everything make sense? Does your character's reaction fit his/her personality? Is that a normal reaction? I once read a well-known book where a character couldn't perform a very important task due to illness and had her (clearly) less mature and inexperienced friend take it on. Who does that? Most people would either keep looking or drag themselves from their death bed. 
  4. Do things line up? Did your character schedule a party for next week and suddenly it's taking place a month later? Did she leave the house wearing a red dress and come home to remove a black one? Is she blonde in chapter one and suddenly a brunette in chapter two? These are errors that easily be made especially when you have a lot going on in your manuscript and many characters to keep track of.
  5. Not only do you need to worry about typos for regular words, what about very common names, places etc? Your character may live in 'Lonemon apartment buildings' in chapter three and  'Lomemon apartment buildings' in chapter twenty. It's easy to make this kind of mistake. I have a 'Maria' in my books but have checked through the final manuscript for 'Marie' just in case. It's so easy for your eye to miss this kind of error and even easier to do so when typing fast.
  6. It doesn't hurt to fact check if you aren't 100% sure of something. I have a lot of Spanish in my books so I often research to make sure I have the correct spelling and meaning. Sometimes I will check other things I'm iffy on; for example, is it 'toe the line' or 'tow the line'. 
  7. Always have help. If you can't afford a super expensive editor, find some reliable friends and family members with a good eye. They may catch things you've missed along the way. 
  8. You're not perfect and chances are some errors will still slip through. Don't hate yourself for it and certainly don't quit writing if it's your passion. No one is perfect. Not even other writers (or your critics)