The Character Conundrum

I’m always nervous to write about characters I’ve written about before. When I wrote Blind Magic, I agonized over Marcy. And more recently as I wrote the second in the Jewel Chronicles, I lost quite a few sleeps over my two main characters, Milenda and Jaali.

You’d think it would be easier to write characters you were already familiar with but it isn’t. When you’re a fiction writer you get to think of your characters as if they are real. You get attached to them, you love them and live in fear of not doing your characters credit, letting them down somehow.

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The hardest characters I’ve written so far were all from previous stories–Marcy from Loved You Always and Jaali and Milenda from Desert Jewel. Once I was finished I was happy with the results, but the process was painful.

In June 2018 the second of the Jewel Chronicles will be published. In it my young princess and her beloved Jaali take refuge in the Northern Lands while they wait for a safe time to return to Afrika. I needed Milenda to be the same brave and kindhearted young woman she was in Desert Jewel, but I also needed her to be a little clueless and unsure of herself because of her new setting. I was so afraid I would make her look weak after having made sure she came out strong and courageous in face of adversity in the first book.

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I wanted Jaali to regress a little when it came to his inner demons without making him sound like a helpless victim. Jaali had made such strides into killing his demons in the first book, I didn’t want him to lose that now.

And then there was Mjusi, the flying lizard. He was the only character I had a clear picture of where he was going. But even then, I was not sure of how to take him there.

Being a pantser I love that moment when everything comes together in a logical and beautiful way, small elements of the plot or the setting turning into great catalysts of character development. I was very pleased with it when I finished it and I’m hoping my readers will too.

How have you dealt with recurring characters and how have you avoided failing them?

 

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**Coming June 2018**

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Letting Characters Take The Lead

I‘m very pleased to have A.L. Vincent as a guest blogger today. Please, welcome her and, as usual, comments are always welcome 😉

My favorite part of writing isn’t creating stories, it’s creating characters. For me, that’s where the real story begins. Why does the character act the way he or she does? What do they want? Where do they want to go? I spend countless hours simply watching people. This might be at a restaurant, in the line at the grocery store, at the beauty shop, or my favorite place, New Orleans. Now, sitting on a balcony on Bourbon Street will give you all the character inspiration you could need or want. (And sometimes more!)

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All this observing can give ideas, and get stories going, but the hard part starts when the characters get stubborn. They can completely halt a storyline if they aren’t getting what they want. I’ve scrapped scenes and entire chapters and started over again because where I wanted the story to go and where the character wanted to go were two different things. To be honest, I feel the story turns out better than I planned when I do that, but don’t tell them that.

Like most authors, I’m sure, I have a few favorite characters. I’ve enjoyed writing all my main characters, but there are three that really have a little extra space in my heart. Those three are Noah, Carly, and Ivy. Each has a slightly different story of how they were created.

Noah

Noah

Noah is the love interest of Emily Breaux in Tangled up In You. He’s quiet, strong, and what some would call an “old soul”. He’s been through a lot, been broken, but pulled himself together. When I was writing Tangled, I kept trying to coax Noah to tell more of his story. But, he wouldn’t talk. I told you he was quiet. When I was writing the second book in the series, Running on Empty, Noah decides to tell his story to Grace, who is going through her own personal hell. Noah was the first character to really teach me that the character will talk when he or she is ready.

Carly

Carly

Carly is the first character I created. I started her story many years ago while attempting my first National Novel Writing Month project. She is named after one of my favorite General Hospital characters. I scrapped that novel, although parts of it have been used in various other Fleur de Lis books. Carly is a dreamer, she questions the world and the things around her. She’s a tomboy, and she has a naivety about her when it comes to love. She’s also clumsy, funny, and a wee bit reckless. Her character has remained the most constant, although that’s changing in upcoming novels.

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Ivy

Ivy would get the award for Most Changed character. Ivy started out as a very minor character in my alter ego’s paranormal series. She went from a twenty-something bartender, to a centuries old vampire. A little meek and mild as the young woman, she became a force to be reckoned with as her character developed. She has a love for one-liners and a story that she hasn’t revealed to me. Yet. I’m sure there’s more to her coming soon.

Characters can be pesky creatures sometimes, but it’s so fun to see them start from little spark of inspiration and grow into full grown ideas. My favorite books are about characters I fell in love with even from way back. Characters such as Jo from Little Women, Lestat in The Vampire Chronicles, and Katniss from The Hunger Games always stood out for me. It was the people I loved as much as the stories themselves.

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Author Bio:

A.L. Vincent is a teacher/writer who lives in the heart of Cajun Country. Born in Oklahoma, Vincent became fascinated with South Louisiana after reading Interview With the Vampire. Finally, she became a Cajun transplant in 2001. When not getting lost in a story line, Vincent can be found cooking or enjoying live local music. She has one son, and a furball of a dog aptly named Furby.

Links:        Facebook            Twitter              Instagram

 

 

Romance On A Mission

If you read a few of my romances you may have noticed a common thread running through all of them, no matter if the story is set in the imaginary world of the angels or a very real town in Maine. My characters are diverse. They come from different cultural and ethnic backgrounds, some have disabilities, others are emotionally scarred in one form or another. But they all have one thing in common—they all want to be loved and are willing to move heaven and earth to protect those they care for.

I’ve heard it before as I’m sure you did too—the old adage (not so old as it turns out) that claims you can’t write a diverse character unless you are one yourself. I’ve heard the maxim from certain readers and from literary agents, from members of the LGBT community, from African Americans, Hispanics, people with disabilities or mental illnesses. Pretty much from every minority group everywhere. Because let’s face it—there is no way to fully understand what someone feels or goes through unless you’ve been through it yourself. But wait! Actually, even people who went through similar things felt about it differently because there is only one YOU.

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I don’t subscribe to this philosophy, though. Most writers have a well-developed sense of empathy and as such, and to use myself as an example, I may never fully comprehend how a gay man feels when faced with prejudice but I can come close. Nothing annoyed me more throughout life as being excluded from things because I didn’t quite belong. I was too or not enough of everything. People will bring up just about anything to exclude people they somehow don’t think belong with them.

I believe that no matter where we come from, what our ethnicity is, our religion, our state of mental or physical health we all have one thing in common—as my characters, we all really want to be loved and be happy. So, I write romance with a mission. Sounds silly but after a lifetime of being told I COULDN’T for so many reasons, I wanted to write about characters who in spite of all obstacles, in the end COULD and DID.

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What do you think? To which school of thought do you subscribe and why? In the next few weeks I will be posting some blogs about characters and character development. I know I’ve done it before but I want to go deeper. I’d love to hear from you too, and I’m opening up for guest blogs focusing on characters (their creation, inspiration, favorite ones, most hated ones, etc). Just email me and we’ll go from there.

 

 

Oh, Oliver!-A Character Talk

Yesterday, Blind Magic was released into the world of readers. I’m seriously pumped about it since Marcy, the main character, is one of my favorite characters ever. She was a favorite sidekick in Loved You Always and it still is now that she has her own romance.

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I’ve written a couple blogs about this quirky witch and her winsome personality, but I’ve kept pretty much quiet about her male counterpart and love interest. There is a reason for that. I don’t know how to talk about Oliver without revealing some things about him that I would prefer to keep a secret, so I can surprise my readers.

But I decided to risk it and write this blog about wonderful, swoon-worthy Oliver. After you meet him you will totally understand why Marcy, an independent, free-thinking woman, falls in love hard for this guy.

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Oliver is one of the cops who was shot in Loved You Always while on protection detail for Marcy’s friends, Emily Rose and Jem. Oliver seeks Marcy’s help with a vexing problem at her witchcraft store and the relationship hits the ground running.

Oliver was both a hard and easy character to write. He’s complex and charming, broken and brave, sexy and vulnerable…. I was terrified of writing him, of not doing him justice, of writing him in a way I would totally betray who he is. I think I may have done a good job since I’ve had great comments from readers so far. I’d love to hear from you if and when you read it.

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His life has been far from easy and the ghosts of his past are still out to get him as he develops his relationship with Marcy. The little witch–like he likes to call her–is the light in his rather dark life and he is the missing piece in Marcy’s. He’s the classic type–organized, well-dressed, and reserved. She’s a free-spirit–open, quirky, and unconventional. On the outside they couldn’t be more different, but inside they are two peas-in-a-pod. Made for each other, true halves of one whole.

I love Oliver and I’m so excited to share him with all my readers. I can only hope they love him as much as I do.

An Author’s Betrayal

It’s no secret I’ve always been a bookworm. I used to gulp down books like water. My library–even as a child–has always been large. Many of my books are now electronic but the library, virtual or not, just keeps growing. Authors have always been my friends. They’ve given me such joy, I often think of them as family even though nine times of ten I have never met them. I could never understand how some people treat writers as celebrities and keep tabs on all the dirt they manage to dig up on them. I prefer to think of them as ethereal beings, not quite fictional but not quite real either. I don’t want to know the dirt and the skeletons they keep in their closets–because let’s face it, they are humans like everyone else. I want to focus on their writing and the characters and worlds they create. So you can imagine how I feel when a writer betrays their own writing, their own creation.

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I used to read a lot of fantasy and years ago I picked up a book in the store which would become one of my favorite fantasy series ever. I fell in love with the characters, the world she built, the story than unfolded. Maybe because the two main characters were gay, the author developed a specialized following. LGBT characters were not common at the time. These wonderfully three-dimensional characters develop a romantic relationship which was both sweet and realistic with ups and downs, doubts and moments of insane happiness. All while partnering in some seriously dangerous adventures. I fell in love with the characters, the way the author told their story, and the intricate world she created.

A few years later, maybe pressured by her publisher or the fans, she wrote and published an anthology of short stories about the characters. According to her, the fans had requested more details about the characters’ relationships, a sort of behind the scenes glimpse at their romantic lives. It seemed intriguing to this romantic fool, so I bought the book. To date, this was the only book I have ever thrown away. I was utterly disgusted by it. It was hard to believe these sordid, crude stories had been written by the same hand who had written such lovely prose before. Filthy language, terribly graphic sex scenes, well-loved heroic characters that were now being portrayed as bottom-of-the-barrel creatures concerned only with bodily pleasures. She effectively destroyed the beautiful images I had created in my mind of these wonderful, rich, multi-layered characters. I was mad! I felt betrayed. I felt the author had somehow betrayed her own characters.

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When the last book in the series came out shortly after, I bought it but I couldn’t read it. I couldn’t erase the images her short stories had placed in my head and couldn’t face the characters I had once loved so fiercely. The book is still on my bookshelf waiting to be read.

We all have different levels of tolerance for different things. I stopped reading The Outlander series midway through the first book because of something Jamie did to his wife. I just couldn’t “face” him after that so I never finished the book and have no intentions of reading the rest of the series. What’s your threshold of tolerance? Have you ever been betrayed by a favorite author or favorite character? What would–in your opinion–make you stop reading a series you loved?

Happy Birthday, Desert Jewel

This time last year I was celebrating the release of my second book, Desert Jewel. This book is very important to me for different reasons.

One of the reasons is that I absolutely poured my heart out building the world of Desert Jewel and its characters. In a way, Desert Jewel is my humble homage to Africa and its people. I spent a lot of my childhood and teen years in different places in Africa and I wanted to somehow honor the magic of a world where the modern mixes with the ancient and science mingles with myths and superstition. Princess Milenda and her ex-slave, Jaali will always hold a special place in my heart. I recently finished writing the second in the series and will be starting the third and last one very soon.

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The other reason–and likely the most important–is that the publishing of this book in particular saved me from a very dark place. I have struggled with bouts of mild depression off and on all my life, but last year I went through one of the worst ever. I had to literally drag myself out of bed every morning and couldn’t take pleasure in anything at all. In fact, the morning I received the email from my publisher offering me a contract for this book, I had done just that–dragged myself out of bed, already in tears for no apparent reason and sat down to look through my emails just for something to do. I was on vacation in the mountains with my husband, but my mood was so low I hadn’t been able to enjoy any of it.

That email changed my life that morning. I’ve never told this to anyone, not even my family, but the kind words in that message just brought joy back to my life, the life I was beginning to believe to be worthless. Which goes to show you never know when a kind word may make all the difference in someone’s life.

So today I celebrate the one year anniversary of Desert Jewel’s release and a professional relationship that has enriched my life and given me great joy (and a LOT of work, lol). So let’s hear it for Hot Tree Publishing (hoot and holler)!!!

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I’m running a celebratory giveaway in my Facebook page. Go check it out for a chance to win an autographed copy of the book.

P.S.- Depression isolates. When you’re depressed you feel all alone, which in turn prevent those suffering from depression from seeking help. Keep an eye on those you love for signs of depression–withdrawing, frequent tears, lack of energy, indecision…my family thought I was just being difficult, couldn’t read the signs, an all too-common reaction. Don’t just assume they are being a pain. Dig deeper.

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Marcy Spellman-An Interview

Today I ‘m interviewing Marcy Spellman, the main character in my upcoming new book, Blind Magic.

Me: Good to have you with us, Ms. Spellman. That’s an awesome polka dot dress you have on.

MS: Thank you, you can never go wrong with polka dots. But please, call me Marcy. I’m not one for formality.

Me: I understand you have a pretty unconventional job. Can you tell us about it?

MS: I’m a witch. A garden variety of witch. I own a witchcraft shop called Polka Dots and Eye of Newt just down main street in town. You should visit. I have just the thing for your droopy aura.

Me: My aura is droopy? Never mind that–I wanted to ask you a very important question.

MS: Go right ahead. I’ll try to answer it the best I can. (she stares at me with her big, smoky blue eyes)

Me: Why should I buy Blind Magic when there are so many other awesome romance books out there?

MS: Who told you Blind Magic was a romance? (she giggles) Just kidding… not totally though. It has so much more than just romance. There is mystery and intrigue, drama and heart-wrenching emotion. You gotta read it.

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Me: Do you cast many spells in the book?

MS: I’m not that kind of witch. I help people in different ways, but I don’t have a cauldron or anything. (she stares bashfully at her polka dot high-heels)

Me: But didn’t you meet your man because of a magic potion?

MS: Hardly a magic potion. It was a simple tea, that’s all. A very efficient one by the way.

Me: Come on, fess up! You do cast a love spell in the story, don’t you?

MS: (blushing furiously) Yes, I confess. I did something very unethical for a witch: I concocted a love spell for myself. The thing is, I fell hard for Oliver right away. I could feel the connection between us as soon as I laid eyes on him. I couldn’t resist the temptation .

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Me: Your face just opens up when you talk about Oliver. Tell me a little about him then.

MS: Oliver Dawson… there are no words to describe him. He’s my heart, my soul, that piece of me I didn’t know I was missing until I met him. He’s also handsome and sweet and has the most gorgeous blue eyes you can ever imagine. I go all gooey inside when I look at him.

Me: Last question for you. Hypothetically speaking, if I was to put a love spell together for me what ingredients would I need?

MS: (looking vaguely suspicious) Are you trying to trick me? (she relaxes) Rose petals and lavender. I’d throw an amethyst in there for protection and healing. You can never go wrong with amethyst.

Me: You drink that?

MS: Of course not, silly. You have to perform a little ritual with it. You really should read Blind Magic and find out (she winks at me again). I have to go now. My store is unmanned.

Me: Are you telling me you left the store open and alone? Aren’t you afraid of being robbed?

MS: (laughing) Who would steal a bunch of rocks, candles and teas? Besides I have a protection shield going while I’m gone. No worries. (her bright red hair bounces around her head as she nods)

Me: Thank you, Marcy, for coming and talking to us. A pleasure, as always.

MS: Well? Are you going to buy the book?

Me: I wrote it, so– (she gives me the evil eye) Okay, I will. I will most definitely buy the book.  (she smiles) Be sure to tune in again later this month when we interview more characters from Blind Magic, releasing November 18 and available for pre-order right now.  Thank you, Marcy.

P.S. Marcy just informed me that if you have any questions for her, she will be more than happy to answer them. Leave your questions in the comments. Thank you.

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Hooray For The Characters

I recently had to write the acknowledgment page for my latest book and I realized that I have never thanked my characters. “What?” you may say. “Have you totally lost your mind?” Possibly, but in this case I mean it. I owe my characters a serious token of my undying gratitude.

Characters are more than made up people in a story, figments of an author’s fertile and often feverish imagination. Once created and developed into the pages of a book, they become real–real to the author who made them up and real to the readers who love them. Most of my friends growing up were fictional characters in books.

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Likewise, the characters I created in my romances are very real to me. I feel toward them with the same intensity that I feel toward flesh and bone people. Some I love, some I hate, and some may even leave me a little indifferent.

Marcy, the witch, from Blind Magic has carved a very special place in my heart. I’ve written about her before, about how she started as just a funny side kick on Loved You Always and developed such a big personality I had to write her story. Well, it is written. Blind Magic, which will be released in November, tells Marcy’s story.

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Marcy is at first glance very different from me, but if you dig deeper you’ll find that there is a lot of Natalina in the quirky witch. Like her, I was always the oddball growing up, even within my own family. I never wore the same type of clothes my school mates were wearing, admired artists who everybody thought were weird, and was always the one people came to with their problems. I was a good listener, a problem solver, and yes, I even liked polka dots just like Marcy. Believe it or not I even had strawberry blond hair when I was younger–and not from a bottle.

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Me aged eighteen.

Her man in the book, the dashing Oliver Dawson, reflects–without going into details so I don’t give up any spoilers–a deep, irrational fear of mine. One I still often have nightmares about. Writing it into the swoon-worthy and oh-so-brave detective helped me face and fight that fear.

I may just begin adding my characters to the list of people I often thank for their support because they so deserve it. They fill my world with friendly faces, something to look for, and they are the best therapists a girl could ever wish for.

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What do you think? Do you ever feel strangely attached to a fictional character and find yourself thinking of her/him as if a real person?

The Life and Tribulations of a Pantser

Hi. My name is Natalina Reis and I’m a pantser.

Most of the time this does not bother me in the least. I just ride the wave of creativity and see where it takes me. But there are moments when I wish I was more of a planner so I could avoid those instances of staring into the screen of my laptop wondering what the hell to write.

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I just started a new WIP. A while back I had written a flash fiction piece for my publisher and I immediately fell in love with the characters and knew I had to write their story. The problem is that beyond the fact that they would fall in love and have their HEA, I had nothing else. Okay, maybe I did have the sketchy beginnings of two hopefully awesome characters and their personalities, but that was it. Not unusual for me. My expertise in pantsing often repeats this pattern of starting from a big chunk of nothing and turn it into something.

I had to wait since I was still finishing my last WIP. Big mistake. A friend happened to suggest in passing that I ride the modest success I had with my last paranormal romance and write another. Cai and Sam’s story was lined up to be a contemporary m/m romance. However my freakishly hyperactive imagination immediately set those two into the background of a shifter romance.

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Fast forward to yesterday when I finally was able to start writing it. After a long stretch of time researching hawks, I was ready. Right! I sat, staring at the laptop for over an hour. My mind refused to make the jump from contemporary to paranormal, no matter how much I wanted it. After a while I gave up and went back to editing my other novel.

Later that day my brain lit up and the words came to me. I was ready to make the transition–kind of like my main character transitioning from human to hawk, I was able to begin the spin into paranormal. The words began to flow.

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This doesn’t mean that I won’t be staring at the laptop again tomorrow or the next day searching for words to push the story forward because in my mind, my story plans are still as clear as mud. I would describe my process as when you are walking or driving through a very thick fog–what’s in front of  you reveals itself one thing at a time and always when you are almost upon it. There’s a certain beauty to it, like unwrapping a unexpected gift. Like everything else in life there is a good and a bad side to being a pantser. When it’s bad, it is very bad. But when it’s good, it’s amazing.

What does your writing process look like? I’d love to hear about it.

Writing Samael- Behind The Character

 

Writing Samael- Behind The Character

(Lavender Fields villain)

Writing nice, likable characters with hearts of gold is easy for me. Writing villains, as it turns out, is not. Not because I can’t imagine a character vile enough to make a good villain but because I have a tendency—or so I’m told—to create cheesy villains. In the words of one of my editors (I should be mad at him but he made me laugh so I forgive him) at first, Samael came across as the cartoon villain in The Incredibles. I still don’t agree with this assessment of Samael, but I figured that if even one reader agreed with my editor, I’d be in big trouble. I decided to change it.

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Buddy Pine, aka Syndrome from the Incredibles

I needed Samael to be truly dark, inside and out, the epitome of evil. I wanted the readers to be afraid for my characters. And, if I’m totally honest, I wanted the readers to have some nightmares about this character and what he may do to Caleb and Sky. I dug into my previous experiences writing villains and rehashed the one I felt was the most insidious of all.

This character is from a novel I wrote a long time ago and which hasn’t as yet seen the light of day. It was never edited and rests on my pile of maybe-one-day-I’ll-revise manuscripts. This man—can’t even remember his name right now—was evil because he hated and harmed for no logical reason. He had no other motivation but hate itself. In the original manuscript, he hated the main character because of his race. Samael hated Sky because he was in many ways different from him. Ultimately though he just hated because it gave him pleasure, it justified his existence. Isn’t that the ultimate evil?

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Samael is the character that reflects many of Sky’s fears—his fear of being enlisted by the dark angels, losing his freedom, and ultimately his fear of losing the things and people he loves the most. Just like the boggart in Harry Potter, Samael is the incarnation of everything Sky abhors and fears.

Who wouldn’t be scared of evil that can sneak on you at any time and has the power of angelic magic on its side? Samael made my skin crawl while I was writing him, and yes, I had a few nightmares about him. I think I’ve achieved a truly scary villain but, in the end, the readers are the ones who will decide.

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