Sam Hawken Posts

Scrabble tilesI really do.  Occasionally one will come to me, such as Camaro Espinoza (link), but that’s generally because my mind is wandering around and I start thinking things like, “You know, Shelby and Camaro both sound like girls’ names, even though they’re the names of muscle cars.”  It’s not because I have some specific use for them.  For the most part the process works like this: I’m outlining something, and I get to the point where I need a name.  Unless something pops into my head immediately, I use a random generator (link) and get what I need.  If a good name doesn’t appear in the first list, I just keep clicking until the generator either comes up with a combination I like, or I see a given name and a surname that go well together.  Name goes in the outline, and then I move on.

Similarly, if I’m writing the day’s pages, and I can’t think of a name to go into a slot, that character becomes XX until such time as I go back and fill it in.  I also tend to drop XX into places where I want to insert a specific piece of research, but don’t want to waste time tracking down at the moment.  Flow is important if you want to write as quickly as I do (link), and there’s simply no time for futzing around trying to figure out where I saw the name of some German dinner dish, or whatever.  There’s always an opportunity later on to find what I need, or name whatever or whomever I need to name.

I’m not saying this is a good technique for you.  It may not be.  I know some writers who can’t work on a piece of fiction unless they’ve created an extensive folio on their characters, specifying them down to the smallest detail.  To be frank, I don’t have the energy for that kind of thing.  As I have said before, people are very much like other people, no matter who they are or where they come from.  What’s important is what makes a character different from the norm, not the boring stuff which could apply to anyone.

Writing

RecyclingTwo years ago I wrote a book.  Yeah, yeah, I’m always writing book.  But this was a very special book, as I’d been waiting a long time to write it and felt that was the moment to tackle it for real.  And then I made a terrible mistake: I started thinking about how I was going to make other people like it, rather than about how I could write a story that made me happy.

In this business we all want to sell books.  For some (like me) it’s not a question of want, but of need.  I don’t sell books, I have issues paying the bills.  But it’s possible to get so stuck on the idea of making a sale that you forget what attracted you to a particular story in the first place. And that’s what happened to me.

The book was written and submitted.  Reception from my agent was meh.  Reception from at least one publisher was meh.  Eventually it was deemed unsalable and it went into the dreaded Sock Drawer, or its digital equivalent.  There it has gathered virtual dust, unloved and pretty much forgotten.  Except by me.

I was unhappy when I wrote the book because I felt compelled to write it in a way not in keeping with my personal satisfaction.  I didn’t dig the characters and I didn’t like the way I had to bend the story to fit genre conventions.  And guess what?  The book wasn’t good!  Because writing has to be something that comes from you, not from some committee somewhere.  If you try to write what other people want, sometimes you’ll succeed — because you’ll make it your own somehow, even if you don’t realize it — but most of the time you will fail.

So I wrote the book again.  I took what was good about it, and I wrote an entirely new book from beginning to end, without so much as a single word cut-and-pasted from the original manuscript.  And you know what?  I’m happy with it.  I’ll be happy with it no matter what happens now, because it’s my story, told my way.

Do you have something you wrote for the money, but ended up hating?  See what you can recycle and tell the story again, assuming it means something to you.  Pay no attention to criticism or suggestions.  Write your story.  Write it your way.  The money will come.

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Writing

Make Them Sorry, by Sam HawkenOccasionally someone will send me a review from a critic who really gets it, who understands Camaro Espinoza (link), and grasps exactly what this series is and what it’s about.  Camaro is, admittedly, a tough pill to swallow sometimes, but that’s kind of the point, and if I can get past the expectations of readers who want female characters to be either bright and sunny and cheerful all day, or broken-down addicts who can’t convince anyone they witnessed a crime, then I feel like I’ve succeeded.  Camaro is a challenge to women’s roles in action thrillers, not a capitulation.

Kristin Centorcelli at Criminal Element (link) has read all the Camaro books, it seems, and is absolutely on board with our heroine.  While I’m not much for reviews in general, I do enjoy reading one which so perfectly nails what I’m getting at.  It’s the sort of review that gives you hope for reviewers again.

I invite you to read the entire thing (link), but here are a couple of highlights.

If you like a heroine who can more than take care of herself (and just about everyone else) and literally takes no crap from anyone, then this is the book (and series) for you. The action is nonstop—this book virtually crackles with energy—and the body count is considerable, but it’s Camaro’s existential need to protect those who cannot protect themselves that is the real driving force. And she really is a force for good, even if she has to go to some dark places to achieve justice.

[…]

Camaro is a lean, mean, fighting machine and a woman of very few words. But that’s ok because she says plenty with her fists. It helps to have read the first two novels in this series, if only to get a better handle on what drives Camaro, but new readers shouldn’t be afraid to jump in here if they want.

Kristin absolutely made my day with this review, and thank you to the reader who sent it along.

Get your copy of Make Them Sorry, the latest Camaro Espinoza thriller, from your favorite bookseller. (link)

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Camaro