Saturday, March 25, 2017

The X Files Spin-Off That Totally Needs to Happen

I mentioned in last week's post that I recently re-watched the 2008 X Files film I Want to Believe. Well, that whetted my appetite for more of what was once my favorite show, so my husband and I decided to revisit last year's new season. And as I watched it, I had an idea.

A major theme of this latest season is Scully's grief over giving up her son, William, for adoption. Though it doesn't look as though 2017 will give us a season 11, season 10 strongly implied that the story would go on with the search for William playing a central role, much as Mulder's search for his sister was central to the original show. I hope we will see another season and that we will find out what happened to William. But, like I said, all of this has given me an idea. And it's a pretty awesome idea, if I do say so myself.

Wouldn't it be cool if, in conjunction with new X Files episodes featuring Mulder and Scully looking for their long-lost son, we also had a spin-off that was all about William. But--here's the important thing--the audience wouldn't know the show was about William. The audience wouldn't know there was any tie to The X Files at all.

Here's what it would look like: there's this teenage boy, whose name is not William because, naturally, his adoptive parents wanted to give him a new name, who has discovered that he has psychic powers (remember that baby William had special powers on the original show). These powers frighten him, so he asks his parents about them. They refuse to tell him anything, and order him to never, ever use his abilities. But he's a teenage boy, so of course he doesn't obey. Then he becomes obsessed with finding his birth parents. His adoptive parents at first resist this, but as the boy's abilities become more and more frightening, they eventually give in, being as desperate for answers as their son is.

We follow William, or whatever his name is now, for...I don't know...five or six seasons, at the end of which his true identity is revealed. There will be multiple clues along the way. Naturally, The X Files will be airing new seasons concurrently with this new show, and minor characters will make appearances on both. It will be very subtle, but once the truth is revealed it will be so obvious you'll wonder why you didn't see it before. Think of the first time you saw The Sixth Sense, before you knew that...sorry, no spoilers on that one. Not that there are still people in the world who don't know how that movie ends, but still. Anyway, this X Files spin-off will be kind of like that. Anyone who is really paying close attention will pick up on the hints. There will be lots of fan theories that the boy from this show is actually William from The X Files, but no confirmation from the producers until the finale airs. And this show and The X Files will have a joint finale, so there's no doubt as to what's going on. And some people will throw their hands in the air and shout, "Oh my God!" while others clap their friends on the back and say, "I knew it!"

Okay, so maybe I'm a nerd who spends way too much time analyzing my favorite TV shows.

Or maybe the producers of The X Files are reading this blog post as we speak and I'm about to become a millionaire.

It's also possible that it's already happening, I just don't know about it because...well...everything I said in this post.

You have to admit, though, it would be a pretty cool thing to see.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Did You See Samantha Mulder in The X Files: I Want to Believe (2008 Movie)?

I Want to Believe is sort of the X Files' fans' red-headed stepchild. I wouldn't go as far as to call it the Star Trek V of the X Files franchise. It's not a bad movie. It's just not really an X Files movie. It has nothing to do with aliens or UFOs, and therefore does nothing to move the overall plot forward. I guess by the time it was made the producers thought that story had come to its official end, so why keep beating a dead horse. Of course we know now, with the advent of last year's new season that the horse never died. It's, in fact, alive and well, which makes I Want to Believe even more irrelevant than it already was, with the exception of the fact that we get to see how Mulder and Scully's lives have moved on after the finale of the original show.

My husband and I recently re-watched The X Files, including the first movie installment from 1998. But we put off watching the second movie for over a year because we figured: what's the point? Well, we finally got around to watching it last night, and I noticed something really cool.

I thought I was crazy when I first saw it. Didn't even say anything to my husband because I was sure I was wrong. But watch this video, and tell me you don't see what I see:

The X Files: I Want to Believe on YouTube

Sorry I couldn't embed the video in this post. I tried multiple times and it just wasn't working. Don't know why.

I also couldn't find a clip of just the scene I needed, so this is the entire film. But scroll in about nine minutes. Watch closely at 9:34 and tell me what you see. Here's the link again, in its original form in case you're one of those people who is suspicious of clicking on random links you find on people's web pages, just because I really, really want you to see it.

So? Did you see it? Did the female FBI agent who passes Mulder and Scully in the hallway look familiar to you? Did you wonder why they were looking at her like they recognized her?

Could it maybe be because she's Samantha Mulder?

Okay, not Samantha herself. Just the actress who played her in the early season flashbacks. I did some Googling, and this is what I found:

So it looks like I was right. I even found this picture to prove it:

Pretty cool, huh?

And while we're on the subject of odd things involving X Files actors, isn't it a little ironic that Mulder's sister was played by an actress whose last name was Morley? Only diehard fans will understand that, but I'm scratching my head over here.

Okay, that's all. Just thought I'd share. It's the perfect time of year for finding Easter Eggs, after all.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

TV Viewing Habits: Me Versus My Husband

Couple Bonding

My husband and I watch television together all the time, and while I do have "my" shows and he has "his" shows, still we watch them as a couple. And often discuss them after we watch them. Our discussions can be frustrating for both of us because I generally have all these opinions I want to throw at him, and I expect him to have an equal number of opinions to throw back at me. He usually doesn't, which leads to me going away disappointed and him going away annoyed.

When I Love a Show

If I really love a television show, I'll watch it over and over. My husband likes to do that with movies, but not so much TV shows. It's an odd difference between us.

Because I'm watching my favorite shows numerous times, I generally get a deeper understanding of the characters and the plot than I would otherwise. This leads to some of those opinions I like to throw at my husband. But because he hasn't watched the shows as much as I have, he hasn't had the time to generate many opinions of his own.

A Recent Discussion About One of My Favorite Shows

For those of you who frequent my blog, it's no secret that I love Supernatural. And if you've been a really faithful reader, you may know that seasons one and two are my favorites. The show just went off in odd directions after those early years, and it's never quite been the same. But of the first two seasons, the second is by far the better. And my favorite episode from season two is, in my opinion, one of the bests episodes of any TV show ever.

The episode is "Heart". It aired late in the second season and follows Sam and Dean as they investigate a series of what look like werewolf attacks. They interview the woman who found one of the victims, only to find out that *spoiler alert* she's the werewolf, but has no memory of what she's done. By this point she and Sam have developed a mutual attraction for each other and have entered into a tentative relationship. When they realize what's happening, Sam is the one who has to kill her.

I recently watched this episode for the fourth time. What? I told you I like to re-watch my favorite TV shows. Well, anyway, I watched it for the fourth time in the midst of taking my husband through his second viewing of seasons one and two. Why am I doing that? Because we still watch the new episodes together, and I wanted to show him how much the show has changed since the early days. So we're making our way through the season and we're nearing this episode and I'm going on and on about how it's the best Supernatural episode ever. The best episode of anything ever. Then we finally watch it together.

After it was over, he asked me why I think it's so good. Before launching into my explanation, I asked him if he knew the first rule of good writing (yeah, Supernatural used to be a well-written show before it started contradicting itself every other week). I don't remember his answer, but I think it may have had something to do with grammar or punctuation. I told him no. The first rule of good writing is "show, don't tell". All writers are familiar with that one. It pretty much makes or breaks a story.

Season two of Supernatural is a prime example of "show, don't tell". While in later episodes the bonding moments between Sam and Dean have come off as forced and overly sappy, in season two they were genuine and highly effective. Why? Because we'd been on the journey with them and felt everything they felt along the way.

The season begins with the death of their father. This sparks a role reversal between the brothers, with Sam now being the one who wants to make Dad proud and Dean wanting to say "to hell with it" and go off and find a normal life somewhere. Trying to force a character arc like that can be awkward as all get out, but if it follows naturally from early events, it's quite effective. In this case it followed naturally. Never once did I feel Sam and Dean were stepping out of character. The way they each dealt with John's death was believable to me.

It's eventually revealed that the reason Dean is so fed up with hunting is because John told him something disturbing right before he died. He told him if he couldn't save Sam, he'd have to kill him. Dean carries that burden all through the season. We see him struggle with it. We see his fear that he won't be able to save Sam. We see that he's still really chasing after his father's approval, but with John gone, the only family he has to cling to is Sam, and he clings to him tenaciously. And it's all very believable because we understand everything he's been through up to that point.

We also watch Sam struggling with the concept that he could turn into something evil. That when he was a baby a demon chose him for some sinister purpose and while he has no idea what that purpose is, he's sure he wants no part of it. Again, we suffer with him along the way.

Then we get close to the end of the season, and we have "Heart". Okay, so maybe doing an episode where Sam's love interest turns into something evil, thereby mirroring what Sam fears is going to happen to him, was a little forced. But you know what? This was before Supernatural started doing those kinds of episodes every dadgum week, so it worked back then. The writing leading up to it made us ripe for the emotional roller coaster of that episode.

"Heart" begins light, then gets more and more intense as the story progresses. Because we know what Sam and Dean are going through, we know just how hard this case is for them. Because instead of Sam having to kill Madison because of what she's become, it could very well be Dean having to kill Sam because of what's he's become. And while Sam has a harder time with the case itself, since he's the one who's become intimate with Madison, Dean's the one who wrestles the most with the broader implications of what they have to do. That's why the camera stays fixed on Dean when Sam goes to do what must be done. Because the audience knows, from everything that's come before, exactly what Dean is thinking. He's sad that Sam has to kill someone he cares about, but he's also imagining the day he'll have to do the same thing to Sam. It's also strongly implied that he has a certain admiration for Sam for making what must have been one of the hardest decisions of his life. He knows he won't be able to make the same decision when the time comes. It marks another shift in Dean's character. Things had always been cut and dried for him, as far as the ethics of monster hunting was concerned. Now he's questioning everything.

My Husband's Response

So I finished telling my husband all that, and he said, "I just thought Sam was sad that he had to kill his girlfriend."

"Seriously!" I wailed in response. "You couldn't see all that other crap they were carrying with them as they wrestled with that case?"

He shrugged. "I don't watch television shows and memorize everything the characters have ever thought, said, or felt."

Then I asked, "How do you enjoy watching television if you don't think about all that stuff?"

And my husband said, "How do you enjoy life if you are constantly thinking about that stuff?"

I had to think about that one for a while. When I finally came up with a response, I said, "I spend a lot of time alone thinking about the emotions I'm feeling and what factors in my life may have caused me to feel that way."

To which he replied, "Well, I don't do that. I'm a man."

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Indie Book of the Month: March 2017

A Cozy Mystery

Another departure from my usual reading habits. Don't get me wrong, now. I adore mysteries. I just don't typically go for the cozy variety. There are a couple of reasons for this. First, I tend to steer clear of fiction that is too formulaic. If there are certain events which have to happen (for example, discovering the dead body of a prominent member of society) and it has to happen at a certain time, and there are certain events that must come next in order to be true to the genre, I generally won't enjoy the read.

I also like to stay away from books that are too light. When I read (or watch a movie or television show) I want to be dragged on an emotional rollercoaster so intense it leaves me breathless at the end. If I'm not pulled deep enough into the characters' minds, if I don't feel their pain and their joy, if the pathos of the story does not give me that fluttery feeling deep down in my gut, I won't experience the catharsis I was seeking and won't enjoy the book (or the movie or the television show).

So imagine my surprise when I found myself totally engrossed in a toe-tinglingly cozy mystery in my quest to find my next Book of the Month.

The Book

Smugglers & Scones by Morgan C. Talbot. What a fun book! Really, I should revamp my criteria for a good read. Just because it doesn't leave me weeping by the end doesn't mean I can't enjoy it. And I really did. I loved this book.

I said in last month's post that it is often the world-building that draws me into a book. That was certainly true of this one. I loved the description of the old house, the detailed backstory about the famous author, the quaint seaside town, the quirky cast of characters, and the food. All of it. I loved all of it.

I totally want to spend the night in the Moorehaven Bed and Breakfast Inn. The only people who are allowed to stay there are mystery authors, but that shouldn't be a problem for me. I've written one mystery novel, so that counts, right? I hope so. Ms. Talbot, can you please give me Pippa Winterbourne's number? Or does the B&B have a website I can look up? A vacation in the Pacific Northwest sounds like just what I need right now.

I also craved scones the whole time I was reading this book. I craved them for about three days before I finally realized there are recipes at the end of the book. Yeah, you heard me. Scone recipes right there in the book! And, yep, I baked them. And they were delicious. I'd rather be eating them in the dining room of a historic bed and breakfast which was once the home of a famous author, but eating them in my own kitchen wasn't a terrible experience. Again, Ms. Talbot, that phone number, please? I need to book a room at this hotel. Now.

Okay, so the house is gorgeous and the food is delicious. What about story? Does it deliver? Absolutely! But it's the world-building that makes it so fantastic. I think that's often true of fiction that falls into one of these limited genres. You know the mystery is going to play out in a fairly predictable pattern. What makes it unique is the setting, the characters, and the backstory. And all those things came together nicely by the end. Things which were mentioned casually in early chapters became significant later on, rewarding the reader for paying attention at the beginning. And though the progression of events was predictable enough to qualify the book as a cozy mystery, the actual details of the mystery managed to take me by surprise.

If you're a cozy mystery fan, you should definitely check this book out. Even if you're not (remember, I don't often read cozies) you should still give it a chance. It won't disappoint.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Why It's--Sometimes--Okay to Ditch the Rules and Just Write

Rules, Rules, and More Rules

When you're first starting out, unless you're the Mozart of the writing world, you're going to make some mistakes. You're going to write clunky sentences. Your prose is going to be too wordy. Or too flowery (substitute the word "purple" here). You may mix up verb tenses or employ head-hopping in your narrative. You may burden your readers with the dreaded info dump. Learning how to avoid those things will be one of your biggest challenges as a writer.

You Must Learn the Rules

Wait! Why are you entreating me to learn the rules? I thought this post was about the fact that it's okay to ditch the rules. Well, yes it is, but before you can effectively ditch them, you have to learn them. Knowing them and ditching them versus not knowing them at all is what differentiates between personal style and poor writing. So learn them. Learn all of them. Then figure out which ones you can effectively break. The key word here is effectively.

Why Would You Want to Break the Rules?

Did you read what I just said about personal style? You have to have your own style when you're writing, otherwise you'll sound just like everyone else and no one will notice you at all. You don't want that, do you? Well, to avoid that you sometimes have to bend the rules. Maybe not throw them out altogether (so perhaps the language of my title is a little too strong), but find your own unique way of getting around them. And it's okay to do that, because that's what will make you stand out from everyone else.

Again, you have to learn the rules first. That's the only way you'll be able to tell if your personal choice of words in a specific passage is effective or just plain bad. But once you learn them, you don't have to feel bound by them.

The thing is, all readers are different. Some people will dismiss your book offhand if you deviate one millimeter from the accepted norm. But others will actually enjoy it, and some may enjoy it a whole heck of a lot. It's okay to write for those people rather than the college-professor types who make it their goal to point out all the imperfections in your work.

My Personal Experience With This

I'm discovering that I love backstory. I guess I've known this pretty much forever, but in the last couple of years I've begun looking at it from a writer's perspective, which is putting a whole new spin on things.

Regardless of what the rules may say, backstory is essential to your book. It's what gives the characters their depth and makes them feel like real people. It's what makes readers feel they've truly entered the world you're building for them. You have to have a backstory, the more extensive the better. The trick is how to weave the backstory into your narrative.

I've seen data dumps done badly. I've read books that spend the entire first chapter catching the reader up on what's gone before, and only then jumping into the actual action. Don't do that. It's not fun to read.

But the people who think they know about such things will tell you not to employ info dumps at all. That they interrupt the action and take the reader out of the character's head. Well, yeah, they do, but what I've found recently is that I actually like that in a book. As long as it's only a couple of paragraphs. As long as it's related to what's going on in the scene. And as long as we don't break POV by giving out information the point of view character couldn't possibly know. If all those rules are followed, then, yeah, I like info dumps. I like to hear the history of a certain building. I like to know that the recipe the main character's mom is cooking was passed down from her great-grandmother and has been given to every female member of the family on her twenty-first birthday for the past fifty years. I like being told upfront that the reason everyone is nervous around Weird Uncle Bob is because he just spent twelve years locked in a psych ward because he had some kind of breakdown one day and chased his wife down the street with a pool skimmer. I want to know those things, and I don't mind if the action is put on hold for a little while so the author can fill me in on all the juicy details.

Make Restraint Your Guiding Principle

Like I said before, you don't want to get carried away. Limit it to a couple of paragraphs. Three at the most. Make sure it's related to what's already happening in the story. In other words, don't tell me about Weird Uncle Bob until he actually shows up at a family gathering. And please don't break POV. Tell me what your characters already know, and nothing else. If you only have one POV character, you will be very limited in what you can reveal. Stay within those limits.

And it bears repeating...always, always learn the rules before you try to break them.

Friday, February 17, 2017

What's Up With the Crazy Emotions I Feel Watching Early Supernatural Episodes?

Not the Intended Emotions

I'm not talking about those moments when the show "hits me in the feels". I know what that's all about. I've even blogged about my emotional reactions to television shows here, here, and here. No, I'd say I understand those feelings fairly well. What I'm talking about is this weird feeling of nostalgia I get when I watch the first two seasons of Supernatural. Nostalgia for what, exactly? I honestly have no idea.

Not My Personal Experience

There is something about the eerie locations of the first two seasons that make me long for some unnamed event in my past, but for the life of me I can't figure out what I experienced that I'm recalling so fondly. The show is filmed in the environs of Vancouver. I've never been to Vancouver. The closest I've come is the one trip my husband and I took to San Francisco sixteen years ago. Not exactly the damp, foggy expanse of fir and spruce trees which provides the backdrop for all Supernatural episodes.

Not only have I never been to the places where the episodes were filmed, I also have nothing in my past which relates to the shows concept. I mean, you know, I don't hunt demons for a living. Duh. But I've also never lived the nomadic existence of the Winchesters. I've never traveled the country in a classic car with classic rock blaring on the radio, eating greasy food and sleeping in crappy motels. I mean, sure, I've eaten greasy food a few times and I've stayed in a few less than stellar lodging establishments, but I wouldn't say that experience sums up my childhood in any way. So what the heck?

And a really weird thing? The show makes me think of duck hunting. hunting, of all the far-fetched things. I've never been duck hunting! I've never been any kind of hunting. Okay, so I grew up in rural Georgia, where lots of people like to hunt, but I've never joined them. Maybe I'm reliving memories of being a kid and hearing the older men in my life telling tales of being out in the woods, but if I were it would most likely be deer hunting. I rarely remember hearing anyone talk about hunting duck. I'm sure I know people who do, but deer is definitely the game of choice around here. So why the heck do I think about duck hunting when I watch Supernatural, when neither I, nor Sam, nor Dean, have ever shot a duck? Well, I guess there could be something in Sam and Dean's backstory about duck hunting. I mean, they had this whole history together before the events of the first season took place, but...well, I'm pretty much grasping at straws now.

What I Have Experienced

So we've established that I've never lived a lifestyle even remotely similar to that depicted on the show. But I still feel nostalgic when I watch it. Why? Well, there are some memories it could be bringing up.

My grandparents lived in a huge log house that sat on over a hundred acres of mostly wooded property. They even had a lake. My dad raised horses when I was a kid and we kept them over at my grandparents' house. So I have no memories that relate to hunting, but I did spend a lot of time outdoors. Either riding horses or just exploring the vast wooded area that constituted my grandparents' backyard. Along with these memories are the memories of driving the ten or so miles along country roads from our house to theirs. I didn't ride in the backseat of a '67 Impala, but I rode in my dad's red pickup truck. That's close enough, right? And my parents did listen to classic rock, so the soundtrack of Supernatural is also kind of the soundtrack of my childhood. But somehow all that doesn't quite seem a close enough parallel.

On the duck hunting front, there were a couple of paintings hanging on my grandparents' walls depicting hunting dogs, with ducks on the wing in the distant sky. So maybe there's one connection. (shrug)

I've also been a horror movie buff my entire life. By that, I mean to say that I saw Poltergeist when I was four, A Nightmare on Elm Street when I was five, and The Exorcist when I was eight. My parents were pretty lax when it came to my television viewing, so I basically watched whatever I wanted. So maybe some of the inside jokes and hidden tributes to classic horror embedded in the writing of Supernatural is taking me back to the days when I was still discovering the genre. I don't know. It still doesn't seem like I've hit on it yet.

My last possible explanation is that the show brings back warm memories of staying up late to watch Twin Peaks with my parents. That show was probably my first glimpse of the Pacific Northwest, and similarity of scenery between it and Supernatural just might be what's bringing up these odd feelings. And I do have one really cool memory of spending the night at my grandparents' house (the log cabin, remember?) and watching Twin Peaks there. If you've never experienced watching Twin Peaks in a log cabin in the middle of the woods, I highly recommend it. While you're at it, watch The Evil Dead as well. It's a cool experience. But surely one night of sitting up late in a log cabin watching a creepy show that prominently features fir trees is not the memory I'm harking back to. Is it?

Still Something There

There's still something about that show. I don't know. There are scenes where the characters are standing in a wooded area, or sometimes a field, and it's almost like I can remember standing there myself. Which is of course impossible. Unless I've had past lives, but I don't really believe in that so I'm not going to jump to that conclusion.

Am I the only person going through this crazy thing? If not, I would love to hear about it. So if you've ever had some vague, unformed memory sparked by something seemingly unrelated, please tell me in a comment.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Yes, Even Fiction Books Have To Be Realistic. Here's Why.

Should I drop an f-bomb?

This is a question which arose just the other day as I was writing a particularly intense scene in my latest book. There's one character who is this little ball of angry energy, and I needed her reaction to the situation to be authentic. I needed it to be believable, to fit her personality. And in expressing her emotional response verbally, she would not use a polite or a cutesy word; she would totally throw out the granddaddy of all curse words. So I, for the very first time in my writing, used the "f" word. I worried and I fretted. I  wondered if it was too much of a break from my typical writing style. Would it pull the readers out of the narrative and make them focus on the word itself rather than the emotion it was meant to convey? In the end I concluded that, no, using that word would not come off as odd. What would be odd would be substituting something more polite. It would not be appropriate for that character and therefore would not be realistic.

A Common Question

If you are part of the indie community, you likely follow IABB Confessions on Facebook. The question of realism in fiction is one that pops up again and again, mainly from authors complaining that a reviewer has labeled their book "unrealistic". And the response is always the same: "It's fiction! It's not supposed to be real!" Well...of course we know it's not real. But it still has to be believable.

This issue confused the ever-loving mess out of me when I was in school. It was often a question that was asked in literature class. Sometimes it turned up on a test. Sometimes we were asked to comment on the issue in our book reports. But the question was always the same: "Is the story believable?" I was at a total loss. I read sci-fi. I read horror. I loved ghost stories and stories about aliens and travel to distant planets. Believable? Hell no! The books I liked most were pure fantasy. No realism whatsoever. Or so I thought at the time.

Are my own books realistic?

My most recent published novel, Primogénito: The Fuentes Legacy, has only gotten a few reviews so far, but general consensus seems to be that the book is very realistic. One reviewer wrote, "I definitely think the ending was well done, and realistic." And another said, "I did enjoy the ending, the realistic side of it and there is definitely quite a dark side to this story, especially when talking death and gore."

So...Primogénito is realistic. That's interesting, considering the events in the book could never happen in the real world. It is an urban fantasy about a family who has spent centuries studying alchemy and blood rituals in the pursuit of the secret to real magic. The ending, of course, is when the protagonists finally defeat the villains by stripping them of their supernatural powers. And, naturally, a certain amount of magic is required to undo all the other magic. And yet reviewers have called it realistic. Why?

While I was writing the book I vented my frustration with the particular challenges this story presented in a couple of blog posts, one dealing with the difficulties of writing fantasy, the other with the complexities of writing a decent backstory. Both blog posts deal with world-building. Since my book is an urban fantasy, meaning it takes place in this world, the actual world-building is minimal, but it is there nonetheless. I had to figure out how the magic works, how the family acquired it, and how it could be defeated. In creating all of that, I had to create a world which functioned according to certain rules. And since I was making up the rules as I went, I was in constant danger of breaking one without knowing it. When an author does that, it's called a plot hole. Those pesky story problems can arise in any book, but authors writing about magic or building an extensive backstory are, I think, in more danger of falling into them than authors writing other types of fiction. One cardinal rule is you can't just invent a new kind of magic when you need to rescue your characters from a tricky situation. They actually have to use their brains and find a way out which utilizes the rules already laid down. I suppose I did an okay job with that, because I've gotten two reviews so far which say my book is "realistic".

Have I written anything that's not realistic?

I got called out on this recently in a review for Amelia's Children. I knew it was coming eventually. I could see it even while I was still writing the book. The problem is the romance between Sarah and David. What I knew while I was writing it was that Sarah's infatuation with the mysterious stranger who walks into her life one hot summer night would be the thing that pulls her into the story and sets the ball rolling for her to solve the mystery. I wanted that in there because I wanted to audience to see David as this incredibly handsome, charming man, so I told the story from the point of view of a woman who falls madly in love with him.

Well, a few chapters in I completely shifted focus. The main mystery takes over and the love story takes a back seat. And it stays in the back seat for most of the book. Every now and then, while writing, I would remember, "Oh, yeah! David and Sarah are supposed to be falling in love." So I would throw in a kiss or an affectionate touch of hands or something like that. But then it would be over and they'd be back to investigating Amelia Davis's murder. And one reviewer, quite rightly, complained. I think she read my book expecting a paranormal romance. Yeah, it's kind of a romance, but it's primarily a murder mystery. Add to that the fact that I'd never written romance before and I barely read the genre and you've got a whole bunch of telling and very little showing in regard to Sarah and David's relationship.

That's not to say Amelia's Children sucks. People who have read it expecting a mystery have been quite pleased with it. But it's not a romance, no matter how hard it pretends to be, especially in the first five or so chapters. So that aspect of the book falls a little short of the realism which is vital to a good story.

What I've Learned

I've learned that, in building fictional relationships, you absolutely have to follow the "show, don't tell" rule. If it's a romance, you need hearts hammering in chests and hands which are strong, but gentle. You need kisses which send ripples of warmth through the character's body. You need deep conversations which show the audience that these two people understand each other on a level that goes far beyond mere friendship. I achieved this with Damian and Jenn in Primogénito, but not so much with Sarah and David in Amelia's Children.

You also have to listen to your characters. Just like the woman in my new book who would totally say the "f" word but would not be caught dead saying something more polite, you have to let your characters be who they want to be. Forcing them into some other mold will make your writing unrealistic.

And you have to follow the rules. Yeah, when you're the one doing the world-building you have some freedom to make the rules be whatever you want them to be. But once you know what they are, they can't be changed unless you want to go back and rewrite your entire book. You can't just pull a deus ex machina out of your hat without setting up some expectation earlier in the story that this is what will eventually happen to save the day.

So books can be fictional. They can be magical. They can be creepy and suspenseful. They can be over the top with the violence and the gore. But they have to be realistic.