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Reading, Writing Process

Writing Characters who Struggle

Hey, fam. Today I thought I’d talk about something that’s been on my mind lately… I’ve been in discussions on Twitter about writing believable characters and it led me to think about why I write characters the way I do.

Like all of my characters, TBH.

A Flawed Hero

You know the type. They aren’t a knight in shining armor, their hair isn’t perfectly coifed, and sometimes they make mistakes. Why are we so drawn to these imperfect characters?

Isn’t the hero supposed to be an ideal for us to strive toward?

Well.. yeah. But who can reach perfection like that?

No one, obviously. And as the HR manager at my day job says, having a goal that you can never achieve is demoralizing. I say living in the real world is demoralizing enough, so we need achievable goals.

We need relatable heroes.

That’s why characters like Harry Potter, who has messy hair and is as observant as a brick wall, and Katniss Everdeen, who has emotional availability issues, are so popular. We need to see people who are like us succeed in their endeavors. It gives us hope and helps us to step into their shoes for a little while.

In Justine Musk’s Lord of Bones, I really strongly identified with the protagonist. Jess struggled with addiction issues–and not only to substances. She was addicted to unhealthy relationships, and to magic, to the detriment of her body. While she’s clever and powerful and definitely a bad-ass, the human flaws she had resounded me with me and has made her books one of my favorites.

Side note: I’ve never been addicted to a substance, unless you count caffeine, but I had issues with relationships and with food at different points in my life.

How this relates to my characters

Literally every character I write has a problem. Due to my close relationships with some advocates in the mental health field, a lot of the traits I give characters are related to that. I usually go in with an intention once I’ve explored a character’s identity, but sometimes the traits just write themselves (like anxiety, because I have that problem and I don’t know how normal people think lol). In any case, here’s a list of some flaws and traits that my current characters have:

  • Dana Sailors, protagonist of The Wraith’s Bargain, is morally gray. She lies (but feels guilty about it), steals, and has an addictive personality.
  • Will Murphy, protagonist of The First Stone, quite literally has intrusive thoughts, and later on deals with alcohol dependence.
  • Kat Flores, protagonist of The Strategist, experiences emotional intensity–but has been taught all her life to conceal her feelings. She comes across as frigid and doesn’t allow others to touch her.
  • Annie Harris, protagonist of The Consequence (not yet released), is an eternal optimist who struggles to maintain her sunny outlook among so many horrible things happening in the world.
  • Jeremy Harris, protagonist of Landslide (not yet released), suffers from depression and delusions of grandeur.
  • Lillian Sailors, supporting character in The Wraith’s Bargain, was diagnosed with Schizoaffective disorder (whether she really has it is debatable).
  • Lee Sailors, supporting character in The Wraith’s Bargain, is an authoritarian and obsessed with things being normal. He shuns anything out of the ordinary.

And these are just off the top of my head! I find characters with flaws and mental or emotional struggles much more realistic and relatable.. and honestly, more fun to read (and write!)

But now I want to know what you think. Do you enjoy reading characters who have big problems like these? Or would you prefer them to be perfectly normal, or an unattainable ideal?

Let me know below!

PS- if you missed it, check out my latest freebie: Chapter one of The Wraith’s Bargain. Click below to get it!

Order of the Hunt

Character Interview: Kat Flores

Hey, Kat. Tell us a little bit about your story.

My story is The Strategist, the second story in the Order of the Hunt collection. In this story I’ve just recently joined the Order and am trying to come to terms with my new reality.. and balance the expectations of my parents against what I want to do.

What do most people think they know about you?

A lot of people think I don’t have a personality, or that I’m depressed. I just keep my emotions in check. My mom is a big fan of logic and science… when she was young, her mom taught her to reject a stereotype at the time of Latina women being very emotional. Being as American as possible was how my grandparents managed to fit in, and they passed that down the line.

I’m not sure if I just have stronger emotions than other people, or the fact that I keep them suppressed so much makes them seem more extreme…

Wow, that must be pretty tough. How do you cope with that?

Two ways. I write poetry-as authentic and messy as possible. It’s not there to be pretty or pleasing to others. It’s not for others, it’s for me. It doesn’t rhyme, it often doesn’t have meter. It’s just me.

The other way, if I can’t write, is my Calming. I breathe deeply and imagine stuffing all of my emotions down into one of those big old thick green glass bottles. I stop it up with a cork and then go on my way.

Sometimes, the glass starts to crack. I can feel the pain in my chest, and I know I have to get somewhere alone before it explodes.

I notice you used a fox for your interview image. Can you tell me about that?

I identify with the fox. It’s my.. my muse, I suppose. Maybe this poem will explain.

I often feel like a fox-
captured and trapped in domesticity.
This house is too small.

You think I am exotic.
You pet me.
I have been trained not to bite.

How do you feel you changed from the events in The Strategist?

My confidence and independence increased for sure. I learned that physical touch is sometimes okay. But also the things I learned about my heart and my relationships with those around me. And how my heart began to open, just a sliver. The seed that was planted has sprouted and the bud is about to burst into bloom. I know it’s a tired metaphor for learning to love, but that’s for a reason. It’s a good one.

I also got a healthy dose of reality about the dangers of being a Demon Hunter… but now that I know my strength, I know I’ll be able to get out of anything.

Thanks, Kat. That’s a wrap! Anything else you want to tell everyone?

…No.

freebie, The Wraith

Freebie Alert!

Hey, fam.

I’ve been thinking, and I don’t know if I can wait until the summer to start sharing parts of The Wraith’s Bargain with you.

So… I’m giving out Chapter 1, for free. Just click the button below and I’ll email it to you!

Please keep in mind that it might change slightly by the time the book comes out.. I am still waiting on it to come back from the editor, after all. But, it introduces you to our protagonist, Dana, and what she’s living with that starts all of this mess.

Comment below or email me and tell me what you think! I’m excited to hear everyone’s reactions!

Fantasy, Writing Process

When inspiration strikes at the wrong time

The funny thing about inspiration is that it can strike at the oddest times.

I wasn’t looking to start a new story in the midst of preparations for my first ever book launch. I was committed to focusing on only this series until completion. Those authors that work multiple books at once are ridiculous, I thought. They’re putting too much work on themselves.

And then… this happened.

I’ve been watching the movies and listening to the soundtrack for Disney’s Descendants. I know, I know. But I’m obsessed with it. I love musicals. I love villains. And I LOVE their style. It’s pretty much perfect for me.

(I do have issue with the incredibly cheesy portrayal of the adult villains. But that’s beside the point.)

Sunday, I was scrolling through Instagram and came across a combination of posts. They were far enough apart that my brain didn’t put them together immediately. And then I landed on a writing prompt. I thought, Why not? and began to type. And type. And type.

Side note: I suck at phone typing. So I rarely do long comments on things because I’m usually on my phone instead of a laptop. Phones are easier to hide from toddlers, who love nothing more than to press keys and try to play games on mommy’s “puter”. TL;DR: I usually do short-to-non-existent comments.

But I typed over a paragraph, and my brain started rushing ahead and into a new story. Fully blown, concept, characters, plot, even cover design. A line from a song from Descendants influences a decent part of the plot, honestly. Thinking back on it, I can pick out 2-3 Instagram posts that my brain pieced together with the song into a new idea.

This isn’t a good time to write a new story. But it never is. We all have so many obligations, both self-imposed and other. When the muse demands it, you must make time.. or else.

Or else you will lose the flame. The amazing story that could have come from this moment will be lost forever. And few things are worse than that, to a storyteller.

So now I’m taking a darker twist on one of my obsessions, and we’re going to see what happens. I’m still making The Wraith’s Bargain my priority of course. But I’m making time for this story, too. A little less idle time, a little more satisfaction.

Worth it.

Fantasy, The Wraith

Announcements for 2020

Hey fam! We’re knee deep in the holiday season.. Christmas is tomorrow! Whatever winter holiday you celebrate, if any, I hope you’re enjoying it.

I wanted to pop on here and dish out a few announcements that I am So Excited to share with you!

First off.. a mailing list!

I’ve finally got it figured out to do a mailing list of my own. I plan to use the newsletter to keep you all in the loop on writing progress and projects, blog updates, life updates, book recommendations… all sorts of stuff, really. I wouldn’t be raining down on your inbox all the time though.. probably just once or twice a month. Readers on my email list would also get access to behind the scenes info and first chance at freebies and other offers.


Which leads me to my bigger announcement…

That’s right, finally. That novel I’ve been talking about for ages? It’s legitimately happening. I don’t have an official release date yet, but it should be somewhere around June.

As for the cover art, I’ll be revealing that in early 2020. Email subscribers will get first looks at the cover, as well as inside info on the novel and my launching process.

The Wraith’s Bargain is for book lovers who enjoy fantasy, dark themes, and of course, demons and magic. I’m thinking Chilling Adventures of Sabrina meets House of Night. (Just… without the vampires.)

Intrigued? Hit that subscribe button above and I’ll keep you in the loop! Plus, I’m cooking up a gift for subscribers here pretty soon… but it’s a surprise!

Fantasy, Order of the Hunt

Character Interview: Will Murphy

Hey, fam. In honor of The Strategist being posted this month, I thought I’d start doing some character interviews. I picked Will to go first, since he was the star of the first novella and it would be the least spoiler-y. I’d love to hear more questions that you’d be interested in asking the characters! I just came up with a few that might give a bit more insight into him as a person. I hope you enjoy!

What did you eat for breakfast today?

I don’t eat breakfast… I usually just get up and start my day, and have a snack if I get hungry before lunch.

Where do you live? Who with?

Depends when you’re asking about. In The First Stone, I lived in a rental house with Jeremy. His grandma owned the place and let us stay there for a little bit of our scholarship money. His sister Annie crashed there sometimes too, though she was still in high school. It’s kind of a crappy house to be honest, one story with three bedrooms and only a thousand square feet. Paint peeling on the outside, etc. But it was our own place and we liked it for that.

Later on, I ended up moving back into my parent’s house. They needed someone to watch it and do general upkeep while they moved to Florida. Really stereotypical if you ask me, but no one usually does…

How do you get around town?

Our town is blessed with public transportation, so we either walked or took the bus most places. In The Strategist, I ended up getting to use my dad’s old Chevy truck to cart us around town. I’m not a big fan of driving, but the freedom it gives you is worth it.

How would you describe yourself?

You mean physically? Or like, as a person. Cause those are different.

Well, I’m a tall guy. I’m actually even taller than Jeremy, but no one really notices because I slouch so much. I don’t know why I do it, but it feels more comfortable. I keep my hair short – it’s dark and kind of thick, and I have a goatee and mustache. I wear glasses and neutral colors most of the time.

As a person.. I’d say one word to describe me is ‘reserved’. And a bit of a nerd, I suppose. I had NASA bedsheets as a kid and I played Starcraft.

What’s the best gift you could receive?

Maybe a gift card, so I could download all of the games and music that I want.. the legal way. Or some really good earbuds.

How do you feel you changed from the events in The First Stone?

I grew a lot, obviously. Reaffirmed that I could count on Jeremy when it matters most, and actually experienced a battle.

…. I got a healthy dose of fear, too. It hasn’t quite gone away yet.

What’s something you wish people knew about you?

….That there’s a reason I’m the quiet, reserved guy. I’m not just some super-awkward mega nerd. I mean, I’m a nerd, don’t get me wrong. But years of hearing people’s true thoughts makes you want to interact less. You fade into the background, they don’t notice you, and you don’t have to hear anything you’d rather not. At least, not about yourself. It’s a form of self-defense.

Plus my best buddy loves the spotlight. So I let him have it. After witnessing how depressed he was when we were younger, I’d do anything to make him happy.

What’s the worst thing you’ve ever done to someone?

Agh, this is a hard one. I don’t want you to think of me this way.. but shortly after we discovered our powers, we were learning to control them still. Jer and I were experimenting, and we felt like we had them figured out. And then the bullies picked up on our new sense of confidence, I guess. I knew Jer wanted revenge for the way we’d always been treated and I went along with it.

… I have no idea how we didn’t get caught or in trouble. But those boys never bothered us again. Anyone else, either.

What do you fear most?

What’s with all these deep questions? Can’t we go back to the breakfast one?

..No? Okay.

Used to be, it was being discovered. But after The First Stone… yeah, I have a new fear. It has wings and tentacles. Once you read it, you’ll know what I mean.

How do you view your powers?

They’ve always felt like a burden to me. I didn’t ask to be able to hear people’s thoughts. I couldn’t shut it out unless I had music playing. So music was my savior for 8 long years. Every sleeping and waking moment, if I wasn’t listening to music aloud I had it playing mentally. It’s very draining, and even now that I have another way to protect my mind I get uneasy in silence. Silence didn’t exist for me for so many years, I don’t know quite what to do with it.

Lately my powers have transformed from being a burden to more of a call to action. A duty. I have them for a reason, and I receive messages that help to keep others safe. Yeah, I like them now. Most of the time.

That’s a wrap! Anything else you’d like to say before we end this?

Uh.. don’t play at summoning demons, kids. They’re serious trouble.

Order of the Hunt, Reading, The Wraith

Now Available! The Strategist

Hey Fam. The day is finally here!!

The Strategist is now available to read for free on Wattpad (limited time!)

Posting schedule will be one chapter each Sunday and Wednesday, to be completed by the end of the month. I’m so excited for you all to check this out!

Between expectations of family and school, Kat only wanted a chance to make her own life. So when she was inducted into the secret society of demon hunters, she thought she had it made. Until the day a message arrived: the next big enemy was coming. And soon.
The last message preceded a battle that left half of their group in the hospital. Only barely healed, the four of them are far from being battle ready.
Now the demon hunters are working feverishly to master their skills in time to face this unexpected threat. But Kat still can’t channel magic. And one demon in particular has its eye on her.

I’d love to hear any feedback you all have. Follow me on Wattpad to be automatically notified of new chapters!

Order of the Hunt

Cover reveal! The Strategist

Between expectations of family and school, Kat only wanted a chance to make her own life. So when she was inducted into the secret society of demon hunters, she thought she had it made. Until the day a message arrived: the next big enemy was coming. And soon.

Now the demon hunters are working feverishly to master their skills in time to face this unexpected threat. But Kat still can’t channel magic. And one demon in particular has its eye on her.

Thanks to Naomi Lastrucci for the blurb help!

You guys, I’m SO EXCITED to reveal this cover. It’s so simple, yet I really love it! I’ll share with you all the moment the novella goes live on Wattpad on Sunday December 1st! And remember.. it will only be free for a limited time, so take advantage of this opportunity to read for free.

Comment below and let me know you’re interested!

Book Review

Book Review: 13 Steps to Evil

13 Steps to Evil: How to Craft Superbad Villains

Sasha Black – May 9, 2017

(Goodreads) (Amazon)

Blurb:

Your hero is not the most important character in your book. Your villain is. 
Are you fed up of drowning in two-dimensional villains? Frustrated with creating clichés? And failing to get your reader to root for your villain? 

In 13 Steps to Evil, you’ll discover:
How to develop a villain’s mindset
A step-by-step guide to creating your villain from the ground up
Why getting to the core of a villain’s personality is essential to make them credible
What pitfalls and clichés to avoid as well as the tropes your story needs

Finally, there is a comprehensive writing guide to help you create superbad villains. Whether you’re just starting out or are a seasoned writer, this book will help power up your bad guy and give them that extra edge.
These lessons will help you master and control your villainous minions, navigate and gain the perfect balance of good and evil, as well as strengthening your villain to give your story the tension and punch it needs.
If you like dark humor, learning through examples and want to create the best villains you can, then you’ll love Sacha Black’s guide to crafting superbad villains. Read 13 Steps to Evil today and start creating kick-ass villains.

My impression:

Honestly, I’d give this book 3 stars. The formatting is terrible and the narrative voice is super distracting. It’s like she’s trying so hard to be edgy and off-the-wall that she throws extra metaphors in every third sentence. Most of these just made me roll my eyes, but I was determined to finish it because, well, I paid for it.

There’s some good information in the book, though. If you’re new to creating characters, or aren’t sure what things like protagonists and anti-heroes are, this is very useful. The problem is, most of the things that the author talks about for creation of villains goes toward character creation in general. Another point I’d like to make is that the majority of the book, the way the author talks is like every hero and villain story is like a comic book – it’s black and white, cheesy dialogue, guy gets the girl, etc. And I really could not relate to that. The books I read and write.. just aren’t like that.

Notes:

There were two really useful chapters. One was on Villains and Mental Health (which honestly should be talked about a lot more) and the other was on Introducing your Villain. Those two chapters and the Appendix (lists of positive, negative, and neutral traits and values) made it worth the purchase.

I just probably wouldn’t read the rest of it ever again.

Have you ever read any books to help with a craft? How did that go?

Comment below and share your experiences!

Uncategorized

The Winds of Change

Good morning, fam.

The leaves have finally begun to turn and fall here, and it’s starting to feel like my favorite season. We’re in a cold snap right now but it won’t last forever.

A lot of people think of Spring as the best time for change and growth, but I’ve always favored Autumn. Everything old dies and falls away and you’re left with the bare bones of a structure. This is essential for new growth. You can use the winter, when most things are hibernating, to rebuild. To experiment and get messy. To be authentic.

And when Spring comes again, you’re ahead of the game.

And so it is that I hope to be. Almost everyone around me is competing in NaNoWriMo, and I’m working on my own projects. I’ll be revealing the title and cover for the second novella soon, and I’m halfway through the first draft on the third novella.

For those of you who missed it, I’m working on a mini series of novellas that lead up to my upcoming novel. The collection is called ‘The Order of the Hunt’ and it helps to introduce you to the world and characters. The first one is available to read for free on Wattpad now: The First Stone. The second and third will be available to read for free for a limited time, so be sure to follow me so you’re updated when they come out! Links will be posted here, on Wattpad (obviously), Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.

I’m going to look in to rebuilding my website while continuing to post content at least every two weeks, and maybe even finally doing that email list. I’ve got lots of ideas.. now we’ll just have to see how great I am at implementing them. If you have any suggestions, please leave a comment! I’d love to hear from you all.

Till next time!