Showing posts with label writing. Show all posts
Showing posts with label writing. Show all posts

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.

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 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?



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.




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.


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 rants...as 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?



Saturday, December 8, 2018

Some of your questions answered πŸ‘

I was recently invited to a library to talk about my writing but unfortunately, bad weather caused the event to be postponed. Since I didn't get an opportunity to speak, I decided to answer the questions here! 🀩

When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?

I remember writing as a child and in fact, I wrote my first full-length manuscript when I was a teenager. Unfortunately, due to lack of confidence and guidance, I didn't pursue my dream of becoming a writer until around 2007-2008. I published my first book in 2010.

When did you write your first book?

Fire was published in 2010. 

What inspired you to start writing?

Throughout the years, I've always hoped that my writing has caused people to think, to be empathetic and to see various perspectives. I enjoy provoking people because they are more likely to get involved in the story if they feel an emotional connection. 

How long does it take you to write a book?

I write a chapter a day and have 50 chapters in my books, so in essence, 50 days to complete the first draft. Editing and figuring out details such as a synopsis and cover image also take some time but it can vary. For the last few years, I've published two books a year. 

What is your genre and who is your main audience?

I always talk about how I hate being stuck in a genre because I like to think my writing falls into many categories: suspense, thriller, murder, crime, romance and so on. I even have a couple of books that fall into the fantasy category. 

Where do you get your information or ideas for your books?

I gain information from simply reading about and watching documentaries and interviews about topics that interest me. Many of the topics end up becoming a part of my books. For example, I often read about cartels, violence and the psychology of a criminal, which ends up making it in my books. 

What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?

Check out this answer πŸ–•πŸΌand research time varies. I don't really pay attention to how long it takes. 

Do you write using a pen or computer?

Computer. However, I do write notes on characters and each chapter in a journal in order to keep organized and for reference.

What is the most difficult part of your writing process?

Editing because it's very tedious and it requires extreme focus. Writing the back cover synopsis is always a challenge too but I usually have some help from other writer friends. 

How many books have you written? Which is your favorite?

Ten so far and my latest, And The Devil Will Laugh is my favorite to date. 

What would you say is your interesting writing quirk? ( if you have any?)

I only write chapters early (like 6 AM) in the morning and I do so with no interruptions, unless necessary. I don't get up to eat, take out the garbage or anything else when I'm writing. I try to stay focused and not divert my attention because it's very difficult to get back once I do. 

What is your work schedule like when you're writing?

It tends to be the other way around. I usually write around my work schedule. On mornings that I'm not working, I get up and write. On mornings I'm working, depending on how much time I have, I might do some light editing on previous work, work on social media, upload or record a video for YouTube or any other task that requires my attention. 

What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books?

I recently read a quote that said that writers aren't playing God when writing a book but are merely the secretaries. This is completely accurate. You cannot force a character to do what they don't want to do unless you enjoy getting writer's block. 

What is your favorite type of books to read?

Non-fiction about topics that interest me. 

Were there any authors of books that had a particular influence on you or your writing?

George Orwell. He was a genius. Orwell had the ability to observe and analyze human nature and create works of fiction that reflected how he viewed the world in a way that was served as much as a warning as an entertaining tale.


How do the books get published?

This could be a rather long answer but essentially, you can self-publish, seek out a smaller publisher who is interested in your specific genre or seek out an agent, who will, in turn, proposition larger publishing houses. Large houses generally only deal with agented writers. Always do your research when doing any of the above. There are a lot of scumbags out there. 

Do you design your book covers or how do they come about?

My publisher designs the cover but I pick out the image I would like them to work with and perhaps make suggestions such as, darken the image, colors I prefer etc. 

How do you market your books? 

I mainly use social media but I also use my website, send press releases when new books come out and give out bookmarks with all my covers. I'm always trying to think of new, creative ways but social media is my first stop.

Where can we get your books, other than here?

Everywhere online!! Check out my site for more details. 





Tuesday, December 4, 2018

All my books have a hidden theme 🀫

Did you know that all my books have a theme? This is the message that takes the driver's seat and creates a direction for the entire book or in some cases, the entire series. But why are themes important?

In a nutshell, themes are sort of the 'point' of everything you do. For example, when you pick a career, there's probably an underlying reason that goes much deeper than a paycheque and what areas you feel there are jobs. As a writer, I like making people think about things that perhaps wouldn't normally cross their mind. There are tons of other reasons but that would be the 'theme' of why I choose to write.

In my books, themes are essential because they are the lifeblood of the story. I think the best way to demonstrate this is to give some examples.

In my first two books, Fire and A Spark before the Fire, my theme was how our culture often doesn't see entertainers as real people but rather machines who's every move is meant to entertain us, their lives on constant display, kind of like an animal in the zoo. This was brought on when I watched as a celebrity had a very public meltdown and people were essentially laughing at her, rather than having any concern for her mental state. It frustrates me that we have tabloids and silly shows that focus on everything the stars are doing and actually, this has only grown worse since writing these two books. Of course, this wouldn't exist if there wasn't a demand.

My third and fourth book had a vampire theme, which is something I didn't want to explore but felt compelled to write about. Not surprisingly, the vampires in my books represent the 'bloodsuckers' or 'vampires' in our lives. Around the time I wrote these books, I felt that I was seeing an increasing number of people who fell in this category, not even in my own life but the world in general. We view it in the news pretty regularly as many of these questionable people are floating to the surface, in clear view. The Rock Star of Vampires is my first of two books that dive into this area and in it, we discover that the protagonist, although she's a vampire, is probably less of a vulture than other characters in her life. In Her Name is Mariah, we learn about a young, troubled woman who preys on others because it's the only way she knows to survive, therefore, showing both sides of the same situation.

My final books turned into an extended series that easing the reader into the whole world of organized crime, criminals and an underground world that most perhaps assume is a rarity, if they even believe it exists at all. The central theme is corruption, crime, collusion and the belief that sometimes it's hard to be certain who the 'good' and 'bad' guy really is; although my books follow a group of criminals, there is a point where readers see that the lines are often blurred. My goal was to make readers think and perhaps ask some questions, if only to themselves. Who really runs the world? Politicians, corporations, religious leaders....or is it you? Who controls what we see and what we know? Is it manipulated? These are the questions that I've explored as the series unfolded a couple of years ago and I continue to ask myself.

I think themes are as important for the writer as they are the reader. It gives us a focus that is bigger than simply telling an entertaining story but something that might have a bigger message.


Monday, November 19, 2018

Why do you have to be as much a marketer as a writer? ✍️

If you're about to publish your first book, it's time to sharpen those marketing skills! Let people know about your book, what it's about and most important of all, why they should read it.


  1. Make your front cover pop! Realistically, marketing begins with the cover. Make it eye-catching. If it grabs the reader, they're more likely to investigate further and see what the book is about, which brings me to...
  2. Create freakin' awesome description on the back cover. Your job is to make them want more! Choose passionate words and descriptions to captivate them. I always have difficulty with the back cover summary so often ask other writers for their help in order to capture what I'm trying to say in a couple short paragraphs. 
  3. Send out a press release with a cover photo. Start with your local media, smaller newspapers, free newspapers, radio, and televisions stations, send it everywhere! Not everyone will respond but at worst, you're creating awareness of your book. 
  4. Change your signature at the bottom of your emails. This allows anyone you send an email to know that you're an author, what your book is called and even add an image of the cover if you can.
  5. Post it on social media. This is one of the best tools in your toolbox. Social media is a FREE and outstanding way to let people know about your new book. Be creative. Present the cover, share reviews, events etc with your readers and friends. Have a page or account dedicated to your writing life so people can find you and learn about your book.
  6. Videos are nice. Not everyone is crazy about recording videos but I find it helps to let people learn about you, your books and it's another way to capture attention. It also gives you an opportunity to discuss your books, increase your confidence and make you more comfortable talking about your writing in interviews and events. 
  7. Ads are doable but expensive - so look for deals. You can pay next to nothing for ads or you can pay through the nose. Be careful who you're dealing with too. There are a lot of scammy, suspicious people out there. I receive an email from sketchy companies attempting to sell me marketing packages every week. 
  8. Bookmarks are the best! I have bookmarks made with all my covers on them and where to find me online. Remember, bookmarks travel, can be shared and are just fun to give out. 
Of course, there are many other things you can do, such as have book signings, speak at your local library and have book launches but these were just a few quick ideas. 

The important thing to note is that marketing will be a big part of selling your book. It doesn't matter if you're the most famous author in the world or an indie author who has just written their first book, this is as essential as turning on your laptop to write the first chapter. If you aren't sure, research online, see what other authors are doing and check out books on the subject. Good luck! 

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

How do you write books so fast? πŸ™€

One of the most common questions I get asked is how I write my books so fast. This is probably because I'm averaging a couple books a year for the last 2-3 years. Of course, there are a few contributing factors such as more time and the fact that I'm writing a series where I already know the characters which make it easy to pick up where I left off.

To begin with, I have made writing a priority. Currently, my living situation allows me to work part-time so I can focus on my books. This isn't by accident but a decision I have made for this point in my life. This allows me to provide an appropriate amount of time not just on the writing itself but on social media and other forms of marketing for my books. This won't be forever but it's for now so it's up to me to make the best of it.

That aside, I schedule very carefully. Depending on my work schedule or what I have to do, I tend to organize my time so that I accomplish something every day. I get up early to write (6 a.m) on my days off or when I have later shifts. Scheduling the time is very important because if I waited until I 'felt like it' or when I'm 'inspired', there's a chance I would take a long time to write my books. Inspiration is when I jot down notes but writing time has to be planned around my schedule.

I write one chapter per day. I try to avoid stopping halfway through the chapter because it's very difficult to get back into the same headspace if I walk away and return later. Editing takes longer and is much harder to schedule because some chapters are easier to get through than others and of course, there are many rounds of editing before the book is sent off to the publisher. Meanwhile, when I'm finishing a book, I also have to start thinking about what I want on the back cover for a synopsis (I usually have a couple people assist me on this one) and of course, the front cover; what kind of image do I want? What colors work best? What will grab attention?

On days that I'm working or busy, I plan other things that are also relevant to my writing. For example, I might record or upload a video on a morning before going to work (depending on the time) or, at the very least, prepare and check social media.

Social media in itself is time-consuming. I'm on a few platforms so I must keep it up to date, check notifications and always be thinking of new things to add to keep things fresh. I'm on social media every day. There are some places that I focus more on but unless I have no internet access or am physically unable to do it, I'm on there every day working up a storm.

It's essentially up to me how much time I want to dedicate to my writing and therefore, it's also up to me to make the best of the time I have each day.






Friday, October 26, 2018

Do writers need a high word count per day? πŸ’»

Something I've noticed a lot of author's comment about is their word count per day and often, their stress to meet a certain target in order to be successful. But should they be worrying at all?

I guess it's really a matter of opinion. Word count has never been a concern to me, other than whether or not I have too many words when I finish a book. It's not something I think about each time I sit down to write and I certainly don't check my word count per day - ever.

Having said that, we all need a way to measure ourselves when it comes to a successful day. I simply like to write a chapter with each sitting (note I said 'sitting' not per day. I firmly believe that it should be done in one shot in order to not lose your momentum or train of thought) and with that I'm happy. I don't feel like a failure if I don't reach a certain amount of words and in my opinion, neither should you.

The problem is that if you set your sights on so many words per day, what ends up happening is it can become your focus more than the actual writing itself. It also might end up that you create a 'wordy' piece of writing that you'll have to cut from later on. Also, a lot of words doesn't necessarily mean it's going to be pure gold. It's kind of like the girl who wears a lot of makeup; sure, some women will do it to perfection and walk away looking like a model, but most of us will end up wiping half of it off because we don't want people to think we have the makeup gun stuck on 'whore' (and yes, this is a Simpson's reference πŸ˜‰)

The bottom line is that I don't like to see any writer put stress on themselves to meet some crazy target because it actually can make writing feel more like work than a project that they love. And if that's the case, what's the fucking point?


Sunday, October 14, 2018

Why words matter πŸ—£

If you've ever been in an argument or had a misunderstanding with another person, chances are you're already aware of why words matter. We often find ourselves in situations where words should be picked carefully especially when there's a risk of being misinterpreted.

Not to suggest that we're already great when picking our words. If you're like me, during particularly rushed or stressful times, an entire sentence can fly out of my mouth and not make any sense at all. It happens. We're human.

So how important are words in writing?

When we create a scene, a conversation or show what characters are doing, it's important that the best words are selected for creating the mood. For example, in And the Devil Will Laugh, I had help preparing the back cover because I wanted to be certain that I chose the best words that summed up my book. I wanted to show the intensity, the fierceness of the characters, to create a sense of what to expect....

...he and his loyal foot soldiers will muscle in and tear off a big chunk of it for themselves. 

This, of course, creates a pretty strong impression of what kind of characters can be found within the pages of the book. If I had chosen instead to simply say that Jorge planned to 'move in and with the help of his associates, would take over' it simply wouldn't have the same impact.

Also, keep in mind that each character has their own kind of dialogue. For example, Jorge Hernandez, the protagonist in my last few books, is known for often saying "I don't got time." When he says this, it's usually a sign he's aggravated and is about 5 seconds from rushing out the door and he wants a situation resolved now. Each of my characters has their own, unique dialogue patterns and expressions.

With dialogue, its also important to remember that it can vary according to a character's education, age, ethnicity, experiences, and even attitudes.

Words do matter. Pick yours carefully.






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.




Saturday, September 22, 2018

How Do I Start my Book? πŸ“š

I will admit that there is a lot of time and effort involved in writing a book. However, once broken down into small, manageable tasks, it actually isn't bad. Of course, it also has to be something you enjoy, otherwise, you will be struck with writer's block, find excuses not to work on it or probably toss it aside altogether.

So let's begin!

Your tenth-grade creative writing teacher probably told you to outline everything before you start writing. I disagree. For me, this would never work. There has to be a certain amount of spontaneity involved to keep it fresh and interesting. If you can easily plot out the chapters and figure out the ending before getting past chapter one, chances are your reader will too. Remember, readers are very savvy and automatically try to figure things out as soon as they pick up a book. If you have no idea what is going to happen until you're typing it, chances are they will be just as surprised.

Not to say you shouldn't jot down ideas but I wouldn't bother organizing right away. You can picture specific scenes, conversations, events and know they're going to fit in somewhere, you just don't have to know where yet. Also, you must follow the natural flow of the story and take the characters into consideration; how will each action affect them? What is their own unique path or struggle? How does it fit in with the rest of the story?

Of course, I'm talking about fiction but what about non-fiction? Are the rules the same?

I probably would have an outline for something that falls under non-fiction, but with room to breathe so that you can see how the story flows and which angle it takes. Make sure it is factual and be ready to list any sources you might be using. Remember, you don't want to get sued.

Regardless of what you write, the first draft should be fun. Editing is another story. Let's not go there today. ☺️





Thursday, September 20, 2018

Switch away from the protagonist?? Don't mind if I do! πŸ˜ƒ

Something I started doing a few books ago is to switching away from the protagonist for one chapter. So essentially, I have another secondary character take over the story for one chapter, usually around the middle of the book, in order to give the reader another perspective. It also gives me an opportunity to shake things up a bit. It adds another layer to the book.

The beauty of it is that you can have a better overall view of the protagonist. For example, if your protagonist has a specific point of view about themselves, you might swing around to another character who draws a completely different picture. It gives the reader food for thought. Maybe the impression that the protagonist is giving isn't completely accurate. Then again, it might also change your opinion of the secondary character as well, since you will be seeing them up close and personal.

I do this with almost every one of my books and find that it really gives me a different perspective too. Sometimes the only way to really understand where a secondary character is coming from is to climb inside of their mind. It's really fascinating.


Tuesday, September 18, 2018

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.



Passion and Writing 😍

Why is passion so important in writing? Why are we drawn to explosive arguments, passionate scenes and violence on television and in books? Why do we enjoy a fight in the middle of a hockey game?

We love it because it's in our nature. There's something exciting about people who are passionate in love or anger. We love a character that isn't afraid to show their emotions. This is because we're often encouraged to hide our own feelings, especially those that make other people uncomfortable. So maybe watching others express themselves gives us a bit of satisfaction.

Human nature is interesting. As much as we hate it when a fight breaks out in the middle of a wedding or during a family event, don't we also kind of move a little closer to the action? It's because we get a little jolt of energy watching people when they show such intense emotions. Why do you think dramas and thrillers are such popular genres?

A great example would be if you're watching a hockey game and your team is losing. You're kind of discouraged and suddenly, a fight breaks out! Someone on your team is really giving it to an opponent and this causes your interest to soar. This is because even though your team is still losing the game, at least you see that they are passionate about it. And there's something about that makes you feel a little bit better.