Reality & Fiction

This is something that's been on my mind for a long time, and because of some things I've seen recently, I figured I'd address it (and I really hope I won't be the only one). 

Storytelling is an art form. It's something a writer creates, sometimes from a single thought that strikes late at night and develops haunting whispered, "What ifs?" until they're forced to turn those thoughts into stories. Sometimes those stories end up being some of your favorites (and sometimes least). Regardless of how you feel about them, that's all stories are-- worlds created by people with great imaginations. 

As a writer, I base my character's backgrounds on the type of story I'm writing. For me, it just has to make sense. When I set out to write The Player, I knew I wanted to write a story about a European football player. I knew that at some point, this guy would go to New York and fall in love with a girl who wasn't in his social circle (and never would be if he hadn't met her and fallen for her). The girl lived in Washington Heights and since I have family in that area, I figured she would be Dominican. I'm Dominican, but I'd never written a Dominican character before this. Why? Because I didn't feel like it. It's that simple. I'd written Iranian characters, French characters, white characters from Irish backgrounds, Puerto Rican characters, Cuban characters, African American characters, but never Dominican. After I released that book, I got a few heartfelt emails from Dominican women thanking me for "finally writing a character they could relate to". Some of them even went as far as asking me to continue writing Dominican characters. I told them I'd consider it.

Like most writers, I write characters that fit my stories, and sometimes Hispanic characters just don't fit. This is true for all authors, regardless of their background. Sometimes the worlds we create have white people in them. Sometimes they're black. Sometimes they're green. Sometimes they're insects (*ahem* Grasshopper Jungle). It's not up to the reader to decide what color, race, or background the people in these books should be. That task is up to the author because it's their creation, not ours. 

Not all white people are racist, but some are. Not all black people are racist, but some are. Not all Hispanic people are racist, but some are. I could go on and mention every single race and say the same thing about every single one of them because there are no exceptions. The point is, if an author writes a character that makes racist comments, it does not mean that the author is racist. You can sit there and try to argue it six ways from Sunday and you'd be wrong because YOU did not write the book- they did. There is absolutely no discussion there. If a character happens to be racist and whatever they are doing/saying is gutting you, the author probably did a good job writing them (and whoever raised you did a good job with you). 

There is a big difference between reality and fiction, and I cannot stress how important it is to draw that line. It's something every parent should do when their child comes home asking to buy Call of Duty or whatever other mass shooting game is hot on the market. It's something we need to do when we're reading books that we fall in love with, whether they be romance or thrillers. Christian Grey and Jamie Frasier are incredible, but your loving husband is better (most of the time). 

There are times when we need to stand up for people, like when we see people rioting a group just because they're different, or when people are looting places of worship just because they don't understand their beliefs. Those are things that nobody, regardless of religion, color or background should stand for. Those are real life issues that require real life action. They require us to stay empathetic and help others understand that there is nothing wrong with being different. 

On the other hand, there are times, like when a fictional character calls another by a derogatory name when we need to reassess our anger. Yes, the author wrote the line, but they wrote it channeling *that character*. I don't think Stephen King wants to be kidnapped by a passionate reader. I don't think Dennis Lehane wants to be locked up in a secluded mental institution. I don't think James Patterson hides in closets until he can kidnap and kill unsuspecting pretty girls. 

I can pretty much guarantee that no author is trying to romanticize or make derogatory comments seem like they should be accepted. I, for one, cringe when I see certain terms used, but if the story is set in the 1920s, I don't expect whites and blacks and Hispanics to be sitting in a restaurant together and I expect their dialogue to sound realistic.

I'll finish this long winded blog post by asking you to look at authors the way you look at your favorite actor. Separate the person behind the keyboard from the characters they write. I understand that readers want variety in their books. We want characters from backgrounds we can relate to, and I promise you that there are authors out there who write the types of books you're looking for, but it is not our job to dictate their stories or their characters. And it is certainly not our job to bash them for writing the ones they write and attack the readers who like certain books. There is an ocean of books out there. Shelve the ones that upset you and go find one you enjoy.

Happy reading!  

The Saga Continues

For the most part, I keep my private life private. I'm sure sometimes it doesn't seem that way, but I'm very careful about what I share and who I share it with. That hasn't been the case with cancer, though. When it comes to this, I share everything I can because I know I'm not alone in this journey and I hope that by sharing my experiences I can help somebody else either by raising awareness or help somebody going through it by letting them know that hey, I'm here. We're in this together. 

If you're in my FB reader group, you already know I asked for prayers last week. I never do that. Anyway, prayers were said, positive thoughts were sent, and tests were done. One test turned into two. Two turned into three, and my final results say that I have breast cancer. AGAIN. 

I know.


If you remember correctly, I had a double mastectomy in 2014 and went through chemo treatments and a billion reconstructive surgeries. I thought, as I'm sure a lot of you think, that once you have a double mastectomy you're clear. Not the case.

According to my surgical oncologist, "people think that a bilateral mastectomy means that the cancer is completely gone. What they don't realize is that there's no way of ever taking everything out. Cells get left behind, as well as tissues."

There's nothing that tells us with 100% certainty that it was just cells left behind and not that the cancer came back on its own, but because of where this cancerous lump is in proximity to where the last one was, we think that was the case with me. 

So, what now? 

Well... the next steps are: getting a Petscan and MRI to clear me from any other cancers that may be lingering elsewhere. After the scans, the surgeon will go in and take another sample from the mass and place a wire in there so that it will make it easier for him to find during surgery. Then, I'll go in for surgery so they can take out the lump and clean the area around it. 

Once that's done, I'll go see a radiologist and my oncologist will tell me whether or not I'll need chemo again. ---> Please pray, chant, do a rain dance, and send positivity out into the world so that I don't need either. It's not that I don't think I can handle it, but I really don't want to put my kids through that again.

On a positive note, the lump is much smaller than it was last time, so I'm hoping that if (God willing) all of my scans come back clear, I'll be able to move on from all of this after the surgery. 

Not positive news, but not completely negative either.

As always, I thank you for your thoughts, prayers, and just your presence. I always say this, but I think cancer is one of those things where the patient always feels like they need to reassure their loved ones that they're okay. I spend a lot more time worrying about my kids, my husband, my mom, my cousins, and you than I do about how I feel about it because I already know how I feel about it.

So, if you're one of those people who need to know how I'm doing, I'll tell you. I'm fine. Truly. I had a good cry when I heard the news yesterday. I had another good cry again last night as I thought about my kids and what this could mean for them, and today after my doctor's appointment I felt more at peace with it all. Like I told a friend of mine yesterday, this is not where I end. This is not where I want to be right now, but I can't change that. The only thing I can do is keep moving forward. And I will. 



PS. I also want to say this: I had a LOT of issues getting these tests done. If I was anybody else, I would have given up and not gone back to the doctor and lived with this cancer without even knowing it was there. If you're in that situation, please KEEP FIGHTING. KEEP GETTING CHECKED. KEEP CALLING FOR RESULTS. Your health care is your right and should be your priority. Take care of yourself. Don't get discouraged. It's not an easy journey, but nothing worth fighting for ever is, and YOU are worth every headache. 


The last time I hit the New York Times, I wrote a blog post about it. At the time, I joked with CD Reiss that if I ever hit the list, I'd write an Oscar-style speech. I sort of did. I don't know how to link you to that post right now (shocker- did I mention I'm terrible with technology? And yes, I am only 32 years old). 

In that post, I spoke about my father, because he's responsible for my writing. He's responsible for a lot of things. A lot of things I didn't see while he was still alive. A lot of things that I know that even if I could turn back time and be twenty again, I wouldn't see, because it's taken me this long to see them and appreciate them. 

I'm pretty sure in my last faux Oscar "speech" about NYT I mentioned that my father taught himself how to read and write. He had six younger siblings and had to quit school at the age of eight in order to help my grandmother provide for them. During the day, he'd work-- shoe shining, car washing, selling whatever he could sell in the streets of Moca, Dominican Republic (look it up. Not sure you'll find much, but look it up anyway. That's where my parents are from <3). 

It's not really a place where people get an HEA (happily ever after), but my father got his and has been a beacon of hope for all of the people that live in many small towns over there. He grew up to be a very well respected business man and politician. To this day, nine years after his death, presidential hopefuls in the Dominican Republic use his name to help get votes (look it up! Well, we don't have the same last name since I use my married name, but if you're curious, I'll tell you). 

My paternal grandmother didn't know how to read. She didn't know how to write either. She learned how to scribble her name out of necessity. My father came to the US (NYC) when he was twenty-seven years old. He had nothing when he got here. No money, no extra clothes, and no place to call home. He was offered a bed at his half-sister's house and he took it. The day after he got here, he went out to look for jobs. When he could afford it, he went back to DR, married my mom, and brought her over. There's more to that story (I was born over there, so obviously they went back), but I won't bore you with it right now since this post is about NYT.

Unless you're living under a rock you know that we're in the middle of an election. Every time presidential elections come around, I wonder what my father would think about the candidates. He always had really good insight on these things. I don't need him to be alive to know what he'd think about these, but I'd do just about anything to see his eyes light up when he spoke about candidates and certain topics.

I found out I hit those lists at 4pm on Wednesday and that night there was a political debate (spoiler alert: I couldn't bear to watch the entire thing). Still, it made me think about women and immigration and all of the things that make me me. Had it not been for my father's courage to look for a better life for his family, I wouldn't be here right now. Had he stayed in DR, I wouldn't be Claire Contreras, New York Times Best Selling Author of romance books. I wouldn't be me at all (I was conceived in Jersey, so... lol).

Wednesday, I cried because I was so shocked and overwhelmed with gratitude. I can't get over the fact that people WANT TO READ MY BOOKS! Most of all, I can't get over the fact that me, this "nobody", this person who was constantly told she'd be nobody has managed to somehow make it on these lists multiple times. Today I woke up and cried again as I thought about this. I know. I'm absolutely ridiculous. You probably think I'm exaggerating and being a baby, but you don't understaaaaandddd! So I'm going to see if I can help you understand...

Ninety-six years after women were granted the right to vote in this country, sixty-one years after my father was born, forty-six years after he bought his FIRST pair of shoes, thirty-four years after he made the decision to come to this country looking for a better life, thirty-two years after my birth, nine years after he passed away, four years after I published my first book, and two years after I became a cancer survivor I made the New York Times for the second time. 

Incredible, right? Me, making the New York Times. 


A woman.

An immigrant.   

The granddaughter of an illiterate.

The daughter of a self-taught, self-made, hard working immigrant.  

A New York Times Best Selling Author. 


It's absolutely incredible, completely astonishing, and so very American ;). 

I keep saying this, but I am so incredibly grateful. 

Thank you for making this happen. 

Thank you for buying my books.

Thank you for supporting this dream.

Thank you for being awesome. 

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Teaser Tuesday: The Player

“I went to the bar for you tonight,” I said, hoping that the gravity I held in my gaze would be enough to appease her.


“I think you know why, Camila.”

Her lips parted slightly, as if she was going to say something, but then she shut them again and looked around. I wondered what she was looking for. There was loud Hispanic music coming from the corner and some guys sitting around a domino table, but aside from that the street was empty.

“Let me take you out,” I said, earning another surprised look from her.

“I don’t think it’s a good idea.”


“I don’t think it’s a good idea,” she said slowly, enunciating each word. I crossed my arms.

“Why the hell not?”

“Because I don’t think it’s a good idea and I’m sure you have better things to do while you’re here, Mr. Hotshot Soccer Player.”

I uncrossed my arms and took a step toward her again, forcing her to tilt her face to look me in the eyes. “It’s football, and I have a lot of things do to, one of which will be you.”


The Player: Prologue


Reporter: “Your one constant has always remained that soccer is the number-one love of your life. That you’d never trade it for anything or anyone. Does that still stand?”

I inhaled a heavy breath when I heard the question. I set down my fork and knife and walked over to the television. I’d promised myself I wouldn’t. I’d promised myself I wasn’t going to look at him, listen to him, talk to him, have absolutely anything to do with him once he left. Yet there I was, like I was sure countless of other females were, waiting on baited breath for his answer. When he came into the screen, my breath left me altogether. God. I missed him. I hated him. Couldn’t stand him. But seeing him on the screen, the way he sat back in the seat with his ankle crossed over his knee, looking completely relaxed as he was being drilled with questions . . . the way his chiseled jaw moved when he gave the reporter that lopsided smile that hinted at legions of pleasure that would make any sane woman blush furiously, those arms, roped in muscle and etched in art that I’d touched, clung to during so many sleepless nights . . .

       “Of course it still stands. What do you think?” he asked, tilting his head, green eyes twinkling in flirtation.

        Reporter: “So the rumors about a woman you left behind in the US during the holiday—”

        “I think we both know how many rumors are spread about me.” He tore his gaze away from her and looked directly into the camera. Directly at me. “If there was a woman that special, I would never leave her behind.”

        Reporter: “So you would be willing to make your career number two for the right woman?”

        He continued to look at the camera, his face sobering, all traces of flirtation gone. “I’d give up my career to chase moments with the right woman.”

      I leaned back in my couch, fighting back the tears that threatened.

      I hated him.


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