Likely Suspects -- An Alexis Parker novel

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Changes in a Writer's Life Due to Autoimmune Disease

Posted on February 14, 2017 at 2:40 AM Comments comments (0)

Muffled Echoes releases today. Actually, in about 18 minutes from the time that I begin writing this blog post. In some ways, this book took the least amount of time to write. At over 102K words, I completed the rough draft in two and a half months. Sure, I'd written shorter novels in less time, but for the size, this was my personal best. The reason for that is because I had so long to develop the story in my head, which is why this book also took the longest to write.


As some of you may know, I've been dealing with what oftentimes feels like a very serious health condition (even though my doctor now jokingly says 'it hasn't killed you yet, so it probably won't'). In August 2015, I woke up one morning to a terrifying ordeal which I later discovered was labrynthitis. From what the research suggests, it was probably caused by a virus, and at the time, that had been the most terrifying thing that I had ever faced. It kept me off the computer and away from the television for an entire month due to the balance and spacial issues, and in September, I thought I was fine. I didn't realize or acknowledge the other symptoms that had started to develop because I was far too concerned with the sinus pressure, earaches, and vertigo to worry about these seemingly "inconsequential" other things. I didn't know that the fluttering feeling I had before falling asleep was heart palpitations or that the adrenaline surges and startling awake were symptoms of something else. Nor did I realize that the insomnia and general uncomfortable feeling I had were also signs that my way of life was about to change. I just did what I always did and walked it off. I was an otherwise healthy thirty year old that went to the gym at least five days a week, ran over 20 miles a week, and ate what I thought was an okay diet. Boy, was I wrong.


On Sept. 29, 2015, I experienced thyrotoxicosis. Of course, my trip to the ER that morning because my resting heart rate was over 150 bpm resulted in little more than the ER doctors telling me that I was hyperthyroid and to see a primary care doctor. The next day, after much begging and pleading, I went to see my parents' PCP (since this otherwise healthy 30 year old hadn't been to a doctor in over a decade). My TSH and T4 had both been elevated the previous day, but new lab tests showed a normal TSH and elevated T4. The doctor said it was likely caused by a virus, prescribed beta blockers and said to continue my normal routine and that it would clear on its own. However, there was nothing normal in my life from then on. I bounced around from doctor to doctor, seeing cardiologists, rheumatologists, and endocrinologists, all of which shook their heads and were unable to come up with an actual diagnosis. They were quick to point the finger at another speciality, claiming that whatever was wrong wasn't something that they handled.


It wasn't until December 2015 that I was given a Hashimoto's diagnosis, based solely on the antibodies. However, my symptoms much more closely resembled someone who was hyperthyroid than hypothyroid (erratic heartbeat, elevated heart rate, weight loss). More doctors, more tests, and more confusing results. No one could figure out what was wrong with me. I had CTs, MRIs, ultrasounds, more lab work than I care to count, an RAIU test, a bone density test, and the list goes on and on.


Finally, in April 2016, I went to the second PCP (since the first one had given up figuring it out) and was told that following an anti-inflammatory diet might help. She suggested that I try going gluten-free and that was when I dove into my own research. Up until this point, I had only been researching my symptoms, hoping that one of the hundreds of message board posts and blogs that I read with people suffering similar symptoms to mine would have an answer or a solution. I wanted my life back. I couldn't work on the computer or write. All I could do was stay in bed and watch TV. For some, that might sound like a dream, but in reality, it's a nightmare! Due to my errratic, rapid heart beat, I was confined to bed, unable to do even the simplest things without becoming extremely tachycardic. When I wasn't thinking about the plotlines for the next three Alexis Parker novels and the next two Julian Mercer novels and fearing that I would never be able to write again, I discovered research that suggested Hashimoto's patients saw an improvement in symptoms by being gluten, dairy, and soy free. The science and research was fairly new, but it looked promising and nothing else had helped (in fact, the only medical solution was to take synthetic thyroid replacement which made my symptoms worse since my hormone levels were never low). So with nothing left to lose, I gave it a try. 


Six weeks later, I was actually able to get out of bed for a few hours and eat my meals at the kitchen table. Through this entire ordeal I've been so blessed and fortunate to have family that is willing to take care of me, do all the shopping, cooking, chores, and whatever else I need. I also know that there are so many people who are enduring so much worse, so I don't write this blog post as a way of complaining, I write it because I feel like I need to tell this story. Up until the time I got sick, I didn't understand illness. To me, being sick was a cold or some kind of childhood virus that lasts a week or two and that's it. Being sick involves the sniffles, a cough, and sneezing. It didn't involve looking completely normal and yet being unable to do anything. Yet, that's what was happening. My PCP finally came to the conclusion that whatever I have is an autoimmune disease (since I have a positive ANA and I'm positive for Hashimoto antibodies) but there is probably some other antibody or condition going on that modern medicine can't detect.


My health continued to improve through the end of October 2016. My antibodies were steadily decreasing, as were my symptoms, but then things began declining when my diet changed slightly to include a food that I tested positive for having a sensitivity to. Even after eliminating that food from my diet again (in case you were wondering, it was cocoa), my autoantibody numbers continued to increase (ever so slowly), and by December 2016 my symptoms were getting progressively worse. I was relieved that Muffled Echoes was complete and that the edits could be passed along to other parties. The book would come out. I was determined. But more than that, I was determined to find a solution to my problem. Hell, I'm still determined to find a solution to my problem.


At my December appointment, the second PCP was ready to give up on me too, just like the first, and said that I would just have to accept this as my new normal. So being stationary and waiting to be confined to bed again was normal? Hell no. That's not normal, and I refuse to accept it. So I dove back into the research. I remembered stumbling across an article about AIP (Autoimmune Protocol) which is an extremely strict Paleo diet. Initially, I ignored the article, incorrectly assuming that the Paleo diet focused on consuming large amounts of meat and not much else. But now that my numbers were worse, despite my continuous avoidance of gluten, dairy, and soy, I gave it a second look.


It's been just over a month since I began AIP, eliminating all grains, pseudo-grains, sugar, nightshades, nuts, seeds, and eggs, in addition to the dairy, gluten, and soy, and I will admit, it's been rough. I had headaches and extreme cravings for the first three weeks. My diet now consists of mostly fish, tons of veggies, and some fruit. Eventually, my body started to adjust to this new way of eating (thanks in large part to avocadoes, sweet potatoes, and plantain chips), and while I feel it is too soon to determine if this is working or not, I will say that I have hope again. So many doctors have done nothing but try to crush that hope by telling me that there is no cure, that I'm more likely to develop other autoimmune diseases and cancer, and that I just have to accept this. Well, I don't. And I won't. And so I keep fighting. I have more stories to tell, and Alex and Julian have more mysteries to solve. I have a brand new pair of running shoes that have been sitting in the box for almost two years now. They need to see asphalt or at least the track on the treadmill.


But the reason I share this story is because I've encountered so many people who are suffering with autoimmune diseases from friends to colleagues. From the statistics I've seen, nearly 20% of the US population has an autoimmune disease, and combined, they are the third leading cause of death, underneath heart disease and cancer. They also have no cure, but from what I read, alternative approaches look promising for those willing to make drastic lifestyle and diet changes (like the Wahl's protocol for MS sufferers). If this hadn't happened to me, and if my symptoms hadn't been so debilitating, I would have written it off as some kind of hippie bullshit. Now, I'm one of those hippies who eats organic produce, grass-fed meats, and researches all cleaners and soaps before using them. But I'm at the point where I figure it can't hurt to try, and so I adapt. I truly hope and pray that none of you are afflicted by any disease, but if you are, I'd suggest you do your own research, ask questions, and if you don't like the answers you are given, then keep looking. I just hope that my crime novels provide a few brief moments of enjoyment and escape from whatever troubles you may be facing in life (physical, mental, or emotional). That's why I write, and truthfully, creating the storylines is probably more of an escape for me than it is for any of my readers. 


Cheers. 

 

Q & A with G.K. Parks

Posted on June 6, 2015 at 5:15 PM Comments comments (0)

Over the years, I've been asked a number of questions from readers and fans, so I thought I'd share some of them with you in a single blog post.  **Warning: If you haven't read the entire series up to Dying for a Fix, this will contain spoilers.**

Do not read beyond this point. You have been warned.


Q: How did you get the idea for Likely Suspects?

A: It took months to come up with an idea, and the only part I knew I had to write was the firefight in Martin's house. The rest just came as a way to build to that. 


Q: Why do so many of your characters have a name that begins with M? Is that a significant letter?

A: Actually, I never realized it until you pointed it out.  One of the more difficult challenges is to name characters. Sometimes, they name themselves (Alex and Martin did), and other times I look around the room, spot something, and that's how they get named.  Marcal might have come from a pack of napkins. 


Q: Why do your characters feel the need for profanity?

A: Actually, the bulk of my negative reviews focus a lot on this factor.  To me, they are just words, and honestly, I have no intention of offending anyone by using them. People I know who are police, lawyers, federal agents, etc. speak like that. Actually, the words and phrases they use are much worse.  Most mainstream television, music, movies, and even video games use profane language. Does it make it right? No. Does it mean there is something horribly wrong with our culture and most cultures in the Western world? I don't know. But that's a moral and philosophical debate, and I'm just a crime fiction writer. So what do I know.


Q: The Warhol Incident felt very unsettled. Is there a reason for it, like you forgot to finish writing the book?

A: *laughs* No, I didn't forget to finish the book. There aren't always answers to questions or answers we like. The story concluded. The bad guy was eliminated. And the rest was more of a "we'll see how things go."  


Q: Is it true that you wrote the prequels after completing the first two books?

A: Actually, I wrote the prequels after finishing the first four books. I never intended to write why Alex left the OIO, but since the third book was stuck in limbo, waiting on a publisher, I didn't want my readers to have to wait so long for something new.


Q: Which book is your favorite?

A: I can't choose. They all have their strengths and weaknesses. My favorite action scene is the firefight in Likely Suspects. The most emotional moment happens in The Final Chapter.  I love chapter 19 in The Warhol Incident and how that plays out.  The house in Camels and Corpses is just as creepy as I hoped, and that book has my favorite opening and cover too. But I probably would say books 3-5 are among my overall favorites. Although, I'm pretty damn proud of Dying for a Fix.


Q: Why did you start a new series with a character that was so easy to loathe?

A: I'm assuming you're speaking about Julian Mercer. I hated him. Alex hated him. But he does have redeemable qualities. There's a reason he behaves the way he does. His wife died in his arms after being brutally assaulted. The police suspected him, and he blames himself for failing to protect her. This is revealed in Condemned, so if you loathe Julian, just remember he loathes himself even more. Even if you hated him in Racing Through Darkness, you might not be disappointed with reading about a slightly darker hero.  He was the perfect contrast to Alex.


Q: How come there are only two new Alexis Parker books coming in 2015 when there were five in 2014?

A: Unfortunately, I have to sleep occassionally. But if you already hate Mercer, just blame him since there are four new releases slated for this year, and two are for his series.


Q: I heard you were planning to redo the cover art for Condemned.  Are you going to change any other cover art?

A: Who told you that? I need a name.  Actually, I did commission some new art for Condemned.  I liked the concept, but the color scheme and compilation didn't come out as nicely as I hoped. It will probably get an update before the second book in the series is released.  And the cover art for the Alexis Parker series is staying the same. In a few weeks, the cover for Intended Target will be revealed, and I'm sure it won't disappoint either. 


Q: One last question. Why does the subject matter vary so greatly among your books?  

A: Murder happens a lot, but it would get old if that was the only crime Alex ever investigates.  So far, she's dealt with murderers, car thieves, drug dealers, gangs, international art thefts and crime syndicates, a mafia boss, kidnappers, and embezzlers. This way, if you don't like a certain subject matter, that doesn't mean all the books will be the same. And I also vary the degrees of action and violence in each book too.  For example, Dying for a Fix is pretty action-centric, while Mimicry of Banshees barely had any action because the story was focused on the whodunnit. If you've read one book and didn't like it, perhaps you should consider giving another one a try.  Just read the blurbs in order to figure out what type of crime the novel focuses on. 



Levels of Creativity

Posted on April 29, 2015 at 10:30 PM Comments comments (0)

I've never thought of myself as a particularly creative person.  Sure, maybe I always made stories up in my head, but to me, the real creative geniuses were authors like J.K. Rowling or J.R.R. Tolkien -- the fantasy/sci-fi writers that create complicated, unreal worlds, different creatures, and made up languages. Now, those people are creative! Or even the technothriller writers who come up with advanced technology that can do all kinds of awesome things.  I am humbled by their genius and creativity. It's amazing.


As I work on the ninth novel in the Alexis Parker series and the second novel in the Julian Mercer series, I often struggle with deciding on what new venues the characters should visit and how I can take a fairly commonplace crime and make it new and different. Sure, some creativity goes into this, and oftentimes, readers will ask how I came up with a story, but it's not the same as the real masters.


Artists from all walks of life possess different creative levels. Someone that is no longer in my life was a painter. He would spend hours working with oils, acrylics, and watercolors, just making up scenes and characters from somewhere deep within the recesses of his mind. This was his way of telling a story, and it worked for him. But even painters exhibit different levels of creativity. Some create abstract images that are deeply moving and completely made up while others can stare at a bowl of fruit and create an exact replica of what they see.  Does it make one form of art better than another? Clearly, that's up to each individual audience member. 


The same is true for writing. It's why, as readers, we prefer one genre over another. Perhaps you love historical fiction because these are events that could have happened to someone somewhere in that time period. Or maybe you're a hopeless romantic who loves a happy ending because while most of the story will be realistic, it's nice to see that things work out in the end, even when they don't in real life. Or maybe you love fantasy and scifi that is completely beyond the realm in which we live. Regardless, the artist is still exhibiting some level of creativity in developing their project.


So what level of creativity do you prefer?

It's a lonely job, but someone has to do it...

Posted on April 5, 2015 at 4:40 AM Comments comments (0)

The other night I was being rather nostalgic and came to a few realizations.  If someone had told me ten years ago that this is where I'd be and this is what I'd be doing, I would have laughed in their face. Never in a million years would I have imagined that I would be an author, let alone the author of ten full-length novels and just days away from launching a second series.  It's not that I never entertained the thought of writing. I always loved books, but being an author seemed an unobtainable and lofty goal and not one that I had any intention of ever seriously pursuing.  Sure, maybe when I was older, retired, and had some free time, I'd sit down and write the next great American novel, or some nonsense like that, but it wasn't something I ever seriously planned to do. It was out there in left field.  No, my goals were grounded in pragmatism, or so I thought.


Around the time I graduated college and entered law school, intent on earning a degree and pursuing a career at some federal agency, the economy tanked.  Jobs were getting harder to come by and due to personal circumstances at the time, I realized plan A wasn't very likely.  Always the pragmatist, I moved on to plan B.  The only problem was I didn't exactly know what plan B was. I took a year off.  With twenty-twenty hindsight, I would have started writing during that year and by now, I'd probably have twenty novels to my name, but at the time, I had no idea what to do.  My entire dream came to a crashing halt. The only thing I ever wanted was no longer an option, and I was crushed. Perhaps I should have fought harder for it, but I caved. I let it go.  And I moved on.  


But I couldn't completely abandon everything, so I continued on a parallel path. Instead of pursuing a specialty in criminal law, I decided to move along the academic route and study the social theories behind crime, methods to decrease it, and the statistical tools used to measure it.  After graduation, I was back to my earlier dilemma.  Jobs were still few and far between. I could continue going to school, maybe get a Ph.D. and hope to be hired as a professor or be asked to assist on research, but I didn't want to be behind a desk all day.  (Hilarious, isn't it?) I wanted to be out in the field. I wanted to be doing the job, not studying the methods used by those who do the job.


It took awhile before I figured out what to do.  Plans change. Life gets in the way. Things happen that are completely unfair and beyond our control.  That's just how it is.  But we learn to adapt.  We make compromises in order to survive. Sometimes, we settle. Occasionally, we become complacent.  But when we remember what we want and how badly we want it, we find a way.  We fight for it. We might find something else.  Maybe it isn't what we thought we wanted or even where we imagined we'd end up, but it could be better than we ever dreamed.  Eventually, I wrote. And I kept writing. I'm still writing. And sure, it gets lonely.  It's a solitary job that most people don't understand. And of course, I miss the life I thought I'd have.  But right now, I can't imagine doing anything else.    

Formula Manipulation...Algebra for Authors

Posted on March 11, 2015 at 5:10 PM Comments comments (0)

 

All writers face the dilemma of remaining true to their genre while creating a unique take on the situation. Readers pick up a book with certain expectations. Romance readers typically want happy endings. Crime readers want the perpetrator apprehended. And fantasy readers want to be immersed in a completely different world. This is why certain books, movies, and TV shows become so popular.

 

As a TV buff, I've spent years watching shows like NCIS and Law & Order. These shows are popular and entertaining, but they follow a formula. In a typical episode of NCIS, a naval officer is found dead, the team investigates the crime, and the guilty party is stopped. In Law & Order, the first half of the show is dedicated to the police investigating a crime and arresting a suspect, then the second half of the show is focused on the court proceedings to determine if the suspect will be found guilty or innocent.

 

 

 

In some ways, mystery novels are similar to these popular shows, but as a reader, I'm interested in more than the crime. The characters and subplots are just as important or more important to the story. And the best writers have always been the ones that surprise with twists and turns that no one sees coming. Formulaic writing isn't genre specific, but as a mystery/crime writer I'll focus on my genre.

 

 

 

It's a commonly held belief that most writers aren't math people, but strangely enough, the writing process isn't that different from basic algebra. Select the proper formula. Plug in the factors. And the problem is solved. Easy, right? Not really. One of my concerns is avoiding the pitfalls of writing to a formula. Sure, there are some necessary things that are important to crime fiction/mysteries. First, a crime must occur. Second, an investigator has to unravel the clues or discover the evidence, and lastly, some type of solution or resolution should be presented. These are the necessary parts, but everything else is what makes the story unique and breaks away from the clinical formula. But sometimes, these other factors are also parts of another formula. Red herrings are commonplace in mysteries. And evidence collection and interrogations are elements of the typical police procedural. So have all original thoughts been explored?

 

 

 

The trick is to surprise by mixing different elements and adding unheard of twists. At least, that's what my favorite authors do (regardless of their genre). As I work on the ninth book in the Alexis Parker series, I worry that I'll fall into the trap of writing to a pattern. Constantly, I try to mix up the layout of a book. Sometimes, my novels start with a crime, and other times, they start with a normal everyday moment. The crimes themselves have always differed (even though murders tend to happen in almost every book). But it's a conscious effort not to write the same types of scenes or follow the same plot arc. Writing is about finding the balance between clear and concise while mixing in enough additional elements to make each novel a unique and unforgettable experience.


And for my next trick...juggling

Posted on January 28, 2015 at 2:50 AM Comments comments (0)

Some may call it procrastination. Others refer to it as ambition and drive.  But let's be real honest, it's probably just downright crazy.  As I was diligently working on the final touches of Dying for a Fix, I became distracted by a few other concurrent projects.  First, the cover art for Condemned needed to be polished and finalized.  The cover art, blurb, and pre-order links had to be established for The Alexis Parker Box Set, and some advertising correspondence was calling my name, along with a few minor website updates.  Needless to say, as I type this month's blog post, I have the cover art folder opened, my manuscript file minimized, and a few other things running in the background (like approving a proof copy of a different project).  


When I sat down to work tonight, the only thing I really wanted to do was make some major headway on Dying for a Fix, and so far, I've only gotten about six hundred words onto the page today.  At this moment, about 85% of the story is written down, despite the fact 100% is written in my head.  Too bad there isn't an easier way to get it from thoughts to page, like through osmosis.  Thankfully, the storyline connection I've been struggling to find came to me yesterday at the gym. But these other projects and chores are still buzzing around like annoying gnats that need to be swatted.  And sometimes, regardless of how much I may want to write or know that I need to write, I get distracted.  It turns out I actually work better when I have numerous projects instead of just one.  Who would have thought? If you've been keeping up with these posts, you might recall that I was relieved and excited to only have one book to focus on, but as it turns out, I like to be writing one, editing one, and maybe have something small on the side.  So from here on out, just call me a juggler.   

2014: A Year of Change

Posted on December 31, 2014 at 4:40 PM Comments comments (0)

Another year is wrapping up, and many of us are looking back over the course of the last 365 days as we attempt to calculate our accomplishments, analyze our failures, and make promises to do better in the coming year.  With any luck, 2015 will be an amazing journey for all of us.  


As a writer, 2014 resulted in three published novellas, seven published novels, and my expansion into the realm of Veronica Mars.  It also saw the completion of the first manuscript in the Julian Mercer spin-off series, and a nice push toward the completion of the eighth novel in the Alexis Parker series, Dying for a Fix.  2014 also taught me the value of advertising. Up until this point, the promotions of my books were few and far between with only a select few readers ever discovering the Alexis Parker series. In October, I was lucky enough to be selected for one of the coveted BookBub ads, and that made a huge difference.  This year, I learned a lot of things about the writing process and online marketing, but it's still incredibly obvious that there is much more to learn.  I've only glimpsed the tip of the iceberg, and I hope to continue on this path in the coming year.


While musing about the last twelve months, I oftentimes wonder if I'll be able to keep up with the insane pace that I set in 2014.  Quality is far more important than quantity, and I hope that a slower release schedule will not disappoint any of my loyal readers.  So, here's the tentative unveiling for the next six months: 

January 27: Alexis Parker Vol. 1 Boxset (Containing Likely Suspects, The Warhol Incident, and Mimicry of Banshees)

Late March: Dying for a Fix (Alexis Parker, #8)

April 7, 2015: Condemned (Julian Mercer, #1)

Jul./Aug. 2015: Untitled (Alexis Parker #9)

Oct./Nov 2015: (Julian Mercer, #2)


And for a few final words that are imperative for every good New Year's Resolution: I will read more, write more, never give up on my dreams, and live a healthier lifestyle. I hope you will do the same.  Happy New Year, everybody! 

The Things I've Learned from Julian Mercer

Posted on December 6, 2014 at 5:30 PM Comments comments (0)

1) Writing from a third person perspective takes some adjusting.  But the occasional shift in point of view can be fun and interesting.  For the most part, the action follows Julian, but there are a few instances where Bastian takes lead.  It provides a nice break from the hostile and slightly unhinged way Mercer has of doing things.  


2) It's okay to be a bad guy, just as long as you do it for the right reasons.  Mercer is somewhat an anti-hero, bent on finding vengeance and enacting his own form of justice.  It was fun focusing on someone that is so easily disliked (just ask Alex, she couldn't stand him), but at the same time, it's hard not to feel sorry for Mercer.  In Condemned it becomes apparent that the charcter is multi-faceted, with a difficult history and tragic past, which makes him relatable, pitiable, and destructive all at the same time.


3) More action? Yes, please.  While this is still technically a mystery novel, the action moves faster.  Mercer is not an investigator.  He is a resolution specialist, so when things happen, he and his team react.  Uncovering the truth is simply a consequence to the unraveling of the plot from one scene to another.  This doesn't follow any police procedural or private investigator formula.  Basically, shit happens, and they deal with it. 


4) Bastian really loves his crunchy snacks.  From a timeline perspective, there is no real way to discern if the events that take place in Condemned occur before or after the events in Racing Through Darkness.  My personal inclination is that Condemned came first, but that might not be true.  The only indication that this might be the case is seen in the level of Bastian's committment to substituting his nicotine habit with other oral fixations, like pen caps, chips, and twenty dollar cashews from hotel mini-bars.


5) It's raining men. When writing in third person, sometimes it's best to avoid pronouns, particularly when the majority of characters are men.  It was different to write a novel that was populated almost entirely by dominant male leads.  So it became necessary to use names as identifiers instead of an endless string of "he"s. Although, jokingly, that would have added to the mystery since the reader would end up spending all of their time trying to determine which "he" was being referenced.


6) This is the beginning not the end.  What might have began as a one-shot story quickly morphed into an entirely new series.  While the problems presented during this story are resolved by the end, there is an underlying issue that will have to be worked out at a later time.  I don't want to give anything away, but a few books down the line, Mercer and Parker will be crossing paths again.  


Condemned, the first book in the Julian Mercer series, will be released April 7, 2015.  

The Psychology of Alex Parker -- contains mild spoilers

Posted on November 5, 2014 at 2:05 AM Comments comments (0)

WARNING:  The following contains mild SPOILERS relating to the events that transpire in the prequel novellas (most of which are alluded to in The Warhol Incident and Camels and Corpses)  Please read at your own risk.


After a year and a half, it seems like it's time to demystify some of the personality quirks relating to the main protagonist, Alexis Parker.  Some of the questions/comments I get from readers involve Alex's attitude and demeanor. So I'm going to host a Q & A for everyone to get to know Alex a little bit better.  



Q: Is she a kick-ass female?

A: Yes.  She's an expert marksman and has advanced hand-to-hand combat training (focusing on a combination of Krav Maga and Brazilian jujitsu.) Even though she's small, weighing in at just over a buck ten, it doesn't mean she can't use her attacker's force and momentum against them to even the playing field.  But if given the choice, she much rather show up to a knife fight with a gun.  ;-)  


Q: If she was such a hardcore OIO agent that was focused solely on the job and nothing else, why would she ever give it up? 

A: After her partner was killed, she lost her footing and landed a job in the private sector.  It also led to much self-doubt which explains why she fumbles around during the events that take place in Likely Suspects.  To borrow a phrase from the PD, she no longer feels capable of serving and protecting.  


Q: Then if she's so kick-ass, how come she turns into a sobbing mess in a couple of scenes in a few of the books?

A: Because she's human.  Haven't you ever had a bad day?  Or a bad few months?  How exactly would you react if everything you owned was destroyed or if you were almost killed?  The reactions Alex has are supposed to be real and honest.  Sometimes, life just kicks her in the teeth, and there is only so many times she can roll with the punches before something snaps.  Occasionally, this results in an outburst of violence or property destruction, and other times it might lead to a good cry.  Some readers find this makes her more relatable; others think it makes her wishy-washy or weak.  Honestly, it's just how she is.  But for those who hate it when she cries, rest assured, she hates it just as much as you do.  Probably more.  She doesn't like to show weakness, and her tears appear sparingly in a total of four instances throughout the entire series (at least that I can recall).   


Q: What is the deal with the term ma'am.  And also, why does Mark complain about being called sir?  Isn't this a sign of respect and something that is expected with military and law enforcement personnel?

A: The reason Alex hates to be called ma'am is a call back to The Final Chapter.  After Michael is carried out of the ambulance, she's paralyzed with the knowledge that he won't make it.  And the only thing she recalls from those last few moments of stunned disbelief is the EMTs repeatedly trying to speak to her with a single word playing over and over in her head. "Ma'am." It triggers some internal agony for her each time she hears it.  As far as Mark and his complaint about being called sir, you'd have to ask him, but it's probably safe to assume it has something to do with the sarcastic way Alex uses the word.


Q:  How far over the line will Alex go?  Is there anything that would turn her into a completely cold, heartless, hardboiled protagonist?

A: As a reader, it's occassionally nice to pick up novels where the hero or heroine will do anything to get the job done.  There are no moral scruples or quandaries, but Alex Parker doesn't exist in a black and white world.  She fears becoming a monster or becoming so disenchanted to have no emotional attachment to the job that has to get done.  Has she killed people? Yes.  Does she regret it? Sometimes.  Will that ever change? Probably not. But if it does, then you know for a fact some serious shit went down, and it's time to duck and cover because all hell is about to break loose.  There was a slight taste of this in Racing Through Darkness.  And there will be similar in the future.  Maybe she won't cross the line, but the line is getting moved farther back. The things she never imagined doing during her early days have been done, and probably the things she imagines she won't do now will happen at some point in the future.  She's a dynamic character who has grown a lot in the last six novels. 


Q: What will become of her and James Martin?

A: Keep reading, you'll see.


Q: Does Alex ever really close a chapter in her life?

A: Things change. Life is a pendulum that swings back and forth.  The doors that remain open or that are reopened happen for a reason.  Trust that she'll end up wherever she needs to be, even if she has to take a circuitous route to get there. 


Q: Now that Julian Mercer is getting his own series, will we see any crossover between the two main characters in future books?

A: That's a strong possibility.  Mercer has a lot of issues to work out on his own, and he and Alex fail to see eye to eye on most things.  But he might need her help with something in the future.  However, she won't be making an appearance in any of his books for quite some time. 


Q: How many more books will feature Alexis Parker? 

A: Number eight is in the works, and the plot for number nine has already been outlined.  And with any luck, there will be many more to follow after that.  As long as the reader base remains strong and the ideas keep coming, Alex and I will try not to disappoint. 


Thanks for taking the time to pick up a copy of one of the Alexis Parker books and showing an interest in this character.  I hope you've enjoyed reading about her as much as I've enjoyed creating her. 


~G.K. Parks

First Person vs. Third Person

Posted on October 16, 2014 at 2:30 AM Comments comments (0)

Recently, I read a few comments Lee Child made concerning why some of his Jack Reacher novels are in first person and others are in third. His comments in terms of the process and reasoning for the shift in writing perspective resonated with me, particularly since my two current writing projects utilize these two perspectives.  Like all the novels in the Alexis Parker series, the eighth novel is written in first person.  I love first person. It's easy to write. I can crawl inside Alex's head, and the words just flow.  There isn't much planning that goes into Alex's thoughts or actions, they simply come into being.  It seems natural, and the interactions with other characters seem more organic.  Personally, this method of writing is more enjoyable, the words and story come faster, and I look forward to writing, finding myself daydreaming scenes and conversations.  When I look up from a writing session, I'm easily over a thousand words closer to the finish line.


However, the first Julian Mercer novel is being written in third person.  When I first set words to page almost a year ago, this was a new writing style to explore. It was exciting, challenging, and fun.  But given a dozen other projects that needed attention, those 8000+ words remained untouched for nearly a year.  Well, it's time for the story to be completed.  I considered rewriting those first 8000 words in first person, but it didn't seem fair to Bastian, Hans, and Donovan (Mercer's teammates).  The first novel in this new series really needs to be written in third person.  There are a lot of moving parts, and to accurately portray the good, the bad, and the ugly, this seems to be the only way to do it.  Also, Mercer's a bit scary.  Think of him as a cross between James Bond and Hank Voight from Chicago P.D., with a sprinkling of Dexter thrown in. So being inside his head and seeing the events and mystery portrayed through his eyes would badly skew the story, especially for readers that are unfamiliar with his appearance in Camels and Corpses (Alex Parker #5). It would be difficult for the reader to relate or being sympathetic to Mercer's plight.  As it is, Mercer is a damaged character, but he's not beyond repair. Furthermore, given the antagonists, at times it becomes necessary to shift perspective away from the good guys and focus on what is going on behind the scenes with the bad guys.


And while I can justify this shift in writing style as important to the story and characters, at least for the first in the Julian Mercer series, I still struggle to eke out a chapter a day. (Currently, I'm halfway through, and the deadline for the rough draft of my manuscript is Dec. 15th).  It will be interesting to see which style and approach readers prefer. Hopefully, I'll still manage to do the characters and story justice and add a new dynamic. But it's a daunting task and most definitely a learning experience.  


As a reader, one of my all time favorite mystery writers is and always will be the late Robert B. Parker (Alex was named in homage to him).  The first book I ever read by him was Night Passage which is the first Jesse Stone novel.  Soon after finishing that, I began reading the Spenser novels and then the Sunny Randall novels.  Of those three series, only Jesse Stone is written in third person.  But the writing remains similar, and even if the events aren't portrayed through Jesse's eyes, the third person narrator follows Jesse so closely that there isn't much differentiation between first and third, other than the words on the page.  However, that isn't usually the norm, and I wonder where on the spectrum my third person Julian Mercer novel will land. Perhaps it is just a hair's throw outside of Julian's head, or the story teller is far removed in order to paint a well-rounded picture of all the characters and events.  Only time will tell, but it's definitely an experience, and hopefully, it'll turn into a great read. 


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