Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Character Analysis of Dr. Roger Cohen and Nurse Barbara

I have done character analyses for all the major players save two and the time has come to take a look at Dr. Roger Cohen and his nurse/wife Barbara.

Dr. Rogelio Lopez Barril aka Dr. Roger Cohen and his wife Barbara Gomez Larralde first met when he interviewed her for a position as a nurse on staff of the newly installed (by coup) President of Bolivia. It was three years after the end of World War II and another coup when they fled their mother land for America; the land of opportunity. They had brand new identities and settled in New York's "El Barrio."

Dr. Cohen is Cruzita's OB-GYN and attending physician when she gives birth to fraternal twins Adina and Rhys (RJ). He alone is responsible for deciding that RJ would be better off with another family; the Prestons in Lebanon, PA when he officially declares his deformity.

I've often wondered about doctors who have God complexes. This is the reason why I created Dr. Cohen. The man was smart enough to anticipate a second uprising in his native Bolivia. He was smart enough to prepare in advance and made a quick escape to America when it occurred and he built a new life as a doctor alongside his wife. His singlehandedly deciding that a child born with a physical deformity such as RJ's should not be left to the devices of its biological parents because of their ignorance is nothing but pure hubris.

When his wife questions his actions; when she expresses concern about his decision, he blows her off and wonders what her problem is. They're going to be paid, aren't they?

But in the end, his arrogance did not serve him well as there is such a thing, at least in this story, as karma. Barbara did the best she could under the circumstances throughout their lives together and when their health began to falter, she did everything humanly possible to ensure they would be taken care of.

"Divergent Lives" is not for everyone. It is a kaleidoscope of personalities; psychological misfits whose lives collide when they temporaily converge  then violently diverge and splinter the mosaic of their human lives.


Wednesday, December 12, 2012

December 12, 1962 - December 12, 2012

In the fictional world of Divergent Lives, RJ and Adina were born on December 12, 1962 in the middle of a snowstorm.

Today is December 12, 2012. It would have been their 50th birthday. People often have big galas to celebrate this milestone. They never will.

So in their honor, I decided to officially launch my story on this nite and celebrate in their stead.

I hold in my hand a glass of Chardonnay -- Adina's favorite wine.

I say "Hear! Hear! Happy birthday Adina!! Happy birthday RJ!! May you both live long lives in our imaginations!"

A toast!

I took a survey where I asked readers what they felt while reading the first chapter. Respondents mostly felt sorry for Adina and blamed Tommy.

Let's see how tomorrow goes!


Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Divergent Lives and 12/12/12

Well, folks, we're just a few hours away from the OFFICIAL release of Divergent Lives and I'm feeling all sorts of feelings.


Yea, I'm anxious. I'm anxious to share my baby with you. It was a lot of work; I even got stuck for a bit when all the characters began to speak to me at the same time. The noise was relentless!

Then, over the summer, I had surgery and I thought that would be a good time to get things done since I would be immobile. Hah!  The first six weeks after my surgery were spent either at the hospital or at the rehab center and then when I was released and went home, I spent 95% of the time on percocet. Unlike some writers, my imagination hibernates when I am not clear headed. I don't know what that says about me ... I'll let you be the judge.

Once I was able to get around with a walker, I only took medication right before physical therapy but then I developed insomnia and that's when my characters really took over. There are sections of the story I don't fully recall writing and in discussions over the phone and via email/text with my editor, Andi Reis, I could tell she was surprised when I told her that.

In any case, Divergent Lives is out and I am so pleased. I know this is a dark story with some pretty shocking turns, but, trust me, I toed the line. I learned so much during this process and I'm so very proud of this story that was borne of an exchange during a conversation I overheard as a child about a twin dying in utero.

I thought about that conversation for many years. It's amazing how a young child can be affected by it's environment. That is the running theme in my story and I hope you see that.

Now Divergent Lives will soon be out in the universe. I hope you enjoy it and I hope you share your thoughts on the story.

Happy reading!!


Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Supporting Characters Mason and Claudia Jones and "God"

I've been writing about the psychological make ups of my characters in my upcoming novel "Divergent Lives."

We've analyzed the two main characters' profiles: Adina's as well as RJ's. You can see how the events they have no control over have occurred in their lives shaping who they are.

The same goes for both sets of parents. We've looked at Adina's parents Cruzita and Jesus Rosario here as well as RJ's adoptive parents here.

Today I want to talk a little bit about the supporting characters: Mason and Claudia Jones and "God."

First let's talk about Mason and Claudia Jones. Mason is Tommy's boyhood friend. He is, in effect, Tommy's brother. They grew up together in East Harlem with Tommy being taken in by Mason's family after his parents died tragically in a car accident. Mason is now a New York City homicide detective who feels a deep and abiding love for his "brother" and a sense of responsibility for him. When Tommy arrives at Adina's apartment and finds that she has been murdered, Mason is the first person he calls. Later, Mason arrives at the scene of the crime and is devastated by what he sees. He ultimately puts the pieces together to figure out what happened but not before another tragedy takes place.

His wife Claudia is brash and controlling. Though her role in the story is much smaller, she is somewhat of a diva who can't keep her nose out of Tommy's business under the ruse of the love she has for him. She constantly teases him about his love life. When Tommy finally brings Adina around to meet the Joneses, she has no problem letting Adina know how she feels about her. Adina, being the sociopath that she is, could care less and dismisses Claudia's concerns by moving on to something else during their conversation.

All of the above notwithstanding, both Mason and Claudia have a deep affection for Tommy and only want to see that he is happy. The problem is that Claudia thinks only she can judge who can make Tommy happy; who he should love. 

Now, "God" is another story. "God" is a creature that RJ encounters when he leaves home (Lebanon, Pennsylvania) for New York City and takes up residence there with his new companion. This is where he becomes the proprietor of a popular Riverdale neighborhood restaurant he quickly renames "Rhys' Pieces."

When Rhys/RJ isn't working or finding victims, "God" is his trusted companion. On occasion, Rhys/RJ will bring someone home and when that person makes a negative comment about "God", it raises Rhys/RJ's ire. This is one of the things that sets him off because "God" is his most prized companion; one he rewards after almost every kill.

Everyone in this story has an issue, including the two protagonists, that shapes the lives of everyone around them.

Above all, this story is nothing but a tangled mess of lies (by omission) and deceit where innocents pay with their lives.

Sir Walter Scott (1771 - 1832)

"Oh what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive!" Sir Walter Scott, Marmion, Canto vi. Stanza 17; Scottish author & novelist


Author Minnie Lahongrais on Conversations LIVE 10/19 by middayconversations | Blog Talk Radio

Last Friday, I was a guest on Cyrus Webb's Blogtalk Radio show Midday Conversations Live to launch promotion for my sophomore novel "Divergent Lives."  We talked about my journey as a writer and announced a contest.

If you missed the live broadcast there is still a chance to win. Click here ---> Author Minnie Lahongrais on Conversations LIVE 10/19 by middayconversations | Blog Talk Radio and take a listen. The contest ends on Halloween so there is still time to enter for a chance to win a $25 American Express Gift check.

All you have to do is listen for the secret phrase. When you hear it send me a direct message at my author page with the phrase and you will be automatically entered. On Halloween, one name will be chosen as the winner and an announcement will be made on my page.

Good luck and thank you all for your support!


Sunday, September 23, 2012

Parent Profiles: James Ezekiel and Margaret Preston

In my last post on parent profiles, I talked about the people who raised Adina, Jesus and Cruzita Rosario. Today, I want to focus on James Ezekiel (James from here on in) and Margaret Preston, the people who raised Rhys John or RJ.

The Prestons live in Lebanon, Pennsylvania. James Ezekiel Preston is the third generation pastor of a Baptist church in this small town. His father before him, Pastor Adam Preston, was a promiscuous man who died as the result of a sexually transmitted disease. Some some would say he died of shame as well. The disease went untreated because he believed that it was his penance for having offended God. He believed he had been smited by the Almighty for having committed a mortal sin.

Margaret Preston nee Brown is a former prostitute who has been rescued by a young Pastor James when he was alerted about her being held captive by an unknown man. The former prostitute and Pastor later married.

To the outside world, Pastor James was a benevolent, god-fearing man, but behind closed doors, it was a different matter altogether. He was verbally, physically and emotionally abusive to his wife, and as his son got older he began to do the same to him.

In the beginning of their marriage, Margaret was blindly in love with her husband. She saw him as her guardian angel. In her mind, he offered her a seemingly more stable lifestyle as well as prominence in her new community. But he maintained an attitude of superiority and belittled her throughout their marriage. Because she had nowhere to go, Margaret tolerated his tirades and tried to make the best of a bad situation mostly because of the love she had for the son they adopted together. Besides, this was still better than the life she left behind.

As you know, RJ was born with a physical deformity and as he grew older, the pastor became more and more abusive toward him. He called his son names and messed with his emotional stability. Seeing this, Margaret made it her business to step in and try to deflect the negative attention the pastor paid his son. The older RJ got, the worse it got and he had to find a way to release his rage. He couldn't strike back at his father because he knew that if he did, the consequences would be unbearable for not only him, but for his mother as well if he wasn't successful and he couldn't have that.

Margaret soon became aware of the power of her son's rage when it erupted and she tried to help him deal with it in unconventional ways. They would take camping trips together and she would teach him how to be patient and cover his tracks when hunting. She also tried in vain to teach him how to tamp down his feelings.

The problem is that RJ learned some of his hunting lessons all too well. One day, he went too far and she finally knew what her son really was, but she did nothing but accept it. Eventually, the power of her son's rage hit home and it was up to Margaret to support him. We all know there isn't anything a mother wouldn't do to protect her child.

Both sets of parents in this story have their own unique issues to contend with. What I tried to show here with these sets of parents is how those issues can influence and affect children they are raising.

My question is this: Was there ever any hope for either one of these children? Did they stand a chance at normalcy?

You be the judge.

Up next: Supporting Characters: Mason and Claudia Jones and "God"


Thursday, September 6, 2012

Parent Profiles: Jesus and Cruzita Rosario

As long as I could remember, I've always had this fascination with the mind of a serial killer or more aptly, the mind of a sociopath. Is it (human) nature or is it the environment (nurture) in which the killer was raised? I actually remember learning about nature v. nurture theory in a biology class in school and being captivated. I recall wondering at the time if this was the explanation for why Charles Manson had done what he had done.

I close my eyes and I can see myself begging my father to get me a copy of "Helter Skelter." Is it weird that the memory brings a smile to my face?

In this story, Jesus and Cruzita Rosario, are immigrants from Puerto Rico in New York City in the early 1960's. Dreaming of the American dream, they left their homeland because they wanted to have a family where anything was possible. They wholeheartedly believed any child of theirs raised in the mainland would have the same opportunities as any native born child in the US of A. But their conflict remained in trying to integrate their "old world" culture with the one they found themselves in. And this is what plants the seed for Adina's sociopathic behavior.

Jesus Rosario is a mild mannered man who simply just wanted to provide a nice life for his wife and daughter. He loved them both deeply and because of his love for them, he is somewhat of a milquetoast to his passive/aggressive wife. He would do anything for either one but it is his wife who would win out if he had to make a choice.

In the beginning, his wife Cruzita is meek and subservient, due in part to her old world upbringing and her belief in the old wives tales she heard while growing up. Specifically, she believed that a man was not truly a man unless he had a son who would carry on his name.

In her twisted thinking, Cruzita also feared ending up alone. Because she is a bit older, she has a difficult pregnancy, and there is a risk she will not be able to carry a child to term. She thinks that if she can't carry a child to term, Jesus would leave her. In addition, when to her surprise she got past the first two trimesters, she worried constantly that Jesus could still leave her if she did not bear him a son. What she can't grasp is that Jesus doesn't care one way or the other. All he wants is a healthy baby. However, no matter how many times he says this to Cruzita, she still worries and when she gives birth to a girl they name Adina, she worries even more.

Once Cruzita is home with her husband and newborn daughter, she becomes more confident in her position in the marriage thanks to Jesus constantly reassuring her. Ultimately, she becomes more and more assertive over the years.

Obsessed with appearances, she is a watchdog over Adina's life and the more domineering and controlling she becomes when it comes to her daughter, the more spineless Jesus appears to be. He never once objects to his wife's machinations, unless he thinks his beloved Cruzita is being disrespected or attacked. This becomes clear when Adina is in her mid-teens and they have to deal with a crisis as a family.

When you look at the the behavior of these characters, you can see the parallels of their respective psychologies.

Let's take a look at Adina's parents, Cruzita and Jesus.

Cruzita is driven by her sense of pride. She feels she has failed in her duty to provide Jesus with a son, and considers herself "not a real woman" because a "real woman" would present her man with a son thereby making him a "real man." For this reason she must then direct her energies elsewhere and show the world she is a real woman and she does this by making sure that everyone knows she can have a perfect life. Everything at home appears perfect to the outside world giving her a feel of superiority over those in her environment (friends/neighbors). This means guarding her daughter's virtue in particular ... like a hawk, for Adina must remain a virgin until her wedding night. As far as Cruzita is concerned, the only way to do that is to make sure she is raised with old world values.

The one thing that Cruzita overlooks is the sexual revolution. Sex is a big taboo in her mind and she must prevent anything untoward from happening at all costs.

Jesus, on the other hand just doesn't have the ability to take a stand. However, on the night of the confrontation, Cruzita turns on the waterworks in order to manipulate the situation and turn it all around to benefit her as she must keep up appearances to the world. It is then, and only then, when Adina is a teenager, that Jesus finds the strength to stand in unity with his wife who later takes matters into her own hands.

As a result of this confrontation, something happens that causes Adina's psychosis. Her sociopathic tendencies flare and the reader is a witness to this evolution.

Adina becomes concerned only with situations she can manipulate. Doing this gives her a sense of control in her life, until such time that she begins to yearn for a lifestyle that is more conventional. When she decides that she will take steps to be more like normal people, tragedy strikes.

So, my question is this:

Does Adina become sociopathic because there is something innate within her that makes her who she is? If so, can she be blamed for it? Or, does she become a sociopath because of this major event which occurred in her teen years and causes a switch in her?

Next up: Parent Profiles II: Margaret Brown Preston and Pastor James Ezekiel Preston.