Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Book Review: Dr. No - Even Better Than the Movie

I finished reading Dr. No by Ian Fleming and I have to say I am thoroughly impressed. I read it as a part of a five story compilation book and I can't wait to move to the next one. The one thing I do regret is that the books aren't on the Kindle. I swear I made more notes, or meant to, but when I was done and went back to look for interesting words or lines all I could find were the following:

Apotheosis – Elevation to a divine status; deification or the perfect example; quintessence (I thought I knew this word then I looked it up and realized how wrong I was)

Susuration – Whispering sound; murmur (knew this one, just really like saying it)

Putsch – A secretly plotted and suddenly executed attempt to overthrow a government (of course I knew this one, who doesn't know about the Beer Hall Putsch, but it's so much fun to use)

A couple of lines that caught my eye. When Bond and Quarrel are slipping into Crab Cay Fleming describes it as:

"There was a turmoil of water and a series of grating thuds, and then a sudden rush forward into peace and the canoe was moving slowly across a smooth mirror towards shore."

Then:

"The beach was black. The sand was soft and wonderful to the feet but it must have been formed by volcanic rock, pounded over centuries, and Bond's naked feet on it looked like white crabs."

These are indicative of Fleming's writing it seems to me. He could have said "The canoe came onto the shore easily" or "Bond jumped out onto the black sand beach" but the method he uses are far more descriptive and inspirational.

Finally, the story is far deeper and engaging than the movie story. In the movie Dr. No is portrayed as almost comical. In the book he is intriguing. A full chapter is given over to his back story and it might be the most engaging portion of the story. Did you know Dr. No was shot in the chest and only survived because his heart is shifted to the right side of his chest instead of the left? Well, you wouldn't from the movie. All you would think about are his metal hands. Dr. No is a far more engaging villain in the book than the movie's evil villain.

Well worth the time, glad I bought the compilation.

Monday, November 29, 2010

NaNoWriMo 2010

Made it to 50,000 words. Sadly, as I've predicted, it will take another 20,000 at least till the end of the story. I'm faced with the predicament of going forward and plunging ahead with the other 20,000 or going back to my entry from 2008.

I'm going back. I think that writing so quick, although great for getting a rough draft out there, just isn't good writing. So, although it's still a positive experience each year, it's back to the editing of the other book.

One of the best aspects of NaNoWriMo that I've discovered is the community that springs up on their website. Forums and writing buddies are everywhere. Sadly, as in the previous years, I expect they'll slough away in a few weeks.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Enhancements

I read a WSJ article by Jeffrey A. Trachtenberg entitled Testing Enhanced E-Books (here) about publishers trying to encourage e-book sales through enhanced capabilities.

This article reminded me of the post I wrote on Shogun several months ago (here). Right now one aspect of the Kindle I enjoy is the immediate capability to define vocabulary words I don't know through the Kindle's Dictionary function. If I don't know a word I just press the cursor and "Boop" there's the definition. In the Shogun post I discussed how much more enjoyable it would be to have a map of feudal Japan to go along with the book so I could look up towns and cities as they are mentioned. Finally, a music companion would have been nice. Like Panadora an application that picks specific background music to go along with the book you're reading. These are the enhancements I'd like to see.

Then there was this terrific NPR story (here) about travel guides in e form vs paper form. Apparently paper won, but I bet only because the author used a conventional book that was modified for Kindle, not a travel book written specifically for Kindle. I wouldn't bet on the same result in coming years.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Book Review: The Hostage

I know that I'm a book behind; I still haven't written what I thought of Dr. No. The problem is I read it in hard cover and haven't had a chance to transcribe my notes to the blog. This is not a problem with The Hostage by WEB Griffen. Not only did I read The Hostage via Kindle, but there were no notes or marks that I need to transcribe. This absence of compelling or noteworthy quotes does not speak well of a positive or glowing review.

I've said before that I write these little reviews for my own purposes; primarily to remind myself which books I have read and what I thought of them. In this case I hope that I remember that I wrote that the book is a waste of time and energy and when I one day think, "You know, I should read The Hunters, the next book in WEB Griffen's The Presidential Agent Series," I will read this review and reconsider that thought. I have faith that this process will work because as I was reading The Hostage I remembered that I'd read the first book in the same series, By Order of the President, and I remembered that I didn't think it was worthwhile. Had I written that in the blog I feel certain I would have passed on The Hostage and been a better person because of it.

I first read a WEB Griffen book when I was in the military. The first book in The Brotherhood of War series is The Lieutenants. It's not bad. It's about four different soldiers and how they experience the military and politics in the US in the 1940's and 1950's. I liked it enough that I read the second book, The Captains. At some point I switched to The Corps Series and read Semper Fi and A Call to Arms. I remember that I liked all of these books. They were fun to read, thick, engaging and patriotic. I also remember thinking that all of the characters were a bit extraordinary, almost caricatures of real people. This worked for that era. For some reason I see people in the 1950's as caricatures. Sadly this style does not work well in the present day and The Hostage exposes this weakness.

So much of the time in The Hostage it seems as though Griffen is just moving the story along to get it over with. Setting and scene descriptions take a back seat to military characters who say supposedly strong and poignant things but who come off seeming silly and trite. Having been in the military I think a majority of these characters would be punched squarely in the nose by real soldiers if they were actual people. The dialogue is ridiculous and the plot was flimsy. I find it difficult to watch movies about the military cause I spend so much of the movie thinking "That wouldn't happen" or "That's not how it works." In this book, Griffen even has his character think that same sentiment. Reading this book provided that same frustration in literary form.

In conclusion, I am going to abandon The Presidential Agent series and revert back to The Brotherhood of War series in the future.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

UGH! NaNoWriMo Hell

Things have slowed down! I have less than five thousand words to go and the pace of my thriller is about as slow as a turtle in winter. Not only that, and this is something I discovered last year, my chapters are short . . . painfully short. A couple of paragraphs and then done.

This is why I believe that this manuscrip will easily be 90K words when it's complete. Once I go back and write the setting and add more back story, this sucker will be almost 30% longer. Right now though I just want to get to the end. Not to 50K but to the end of the story.

Two NaNoWriMo's ago I finished the 50K words but didn't finish the story. It's still not finished. I'm going back and editing it now . . . the ending is still missing. I'd rather have an ending that gets massaged and changed over time than no ending at all.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Busy, Busy, Busy

Sorry this is going to be such a light weight post but I'm just 7,000 words from completeing my National Novel Writing Month Novel. . . aka my Duller.

I'm finding that in one or two cases I'm going back and adding in scenes that I've forgotten to make my duller more a thriller. I'm not done yet, still several chapters from a climax, but I still find a need to go back and help set things up correctly.

One thing I have noticed about this NaNoWriMo is that I have not limited my reading as I have in the past. I'm even tailoring my reading. I've read a James Bond, Dr. No, and I'm currently reading Hostage by WEB Griffen. I think this is helping. Could also be a contributor to my thriller being less than thrilling, but I'll bring that up another time. The teachable point here is that reading, even when plowing through 50K words is just as important as when you aren't writing.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Note to Friends and Family

To all friends and family who are wondering what to get me for Christmas, I ran across this little bit of information (here). It is now possible to buy e-books from Amazon and send them as gifts to other people, even those people who do not have a Kindle or other e-reader. Not a huge leap I suppose, in fact I'm a tad surprised that this was not built into the sucker from the beginning. So, if you're wondering what to get the man who has everything, namely me, then head over to Amazon and hit the "Give as a Gift" button. Next though I want to see Amazon provide the ability for my friends and family to access my wish list so they can buy the very book that I want. Get on that Amazon.


 

Thursday, November 18, 2010

If Not a Thriller, a Duller

I'm worried that my new story might be more a Duller than a Thriller. Do other's think this? When Dan Brown wrote DaVinci Code was he bored as he wrote it and only found a way to make it gripping during the rewrites?

Matt Lynn, a thriller author, advises in his blog (here) to learn about structure for Thrillers and to do so by studying early Frederick Forsyth novels. I'm listening to Day of the Jackal right now and two years ago I read Dogs of War. Although they're good books I still feel as though that they both act as treatises on how to be a project manager in the 1950's. Both are filled with the minutiae that go into military operations and assignations. I remember one scene in the Dogs of War where Cat Shannon describes in great detail getting a boat out of customs and bonding it properly. Then again, there's Nelson DeMille. In his book the Lion's Game, the first half seems to be nothing more than a description of the actions during fifteen minutes during an emergency landing of a 747.

So what have I learned? Take your time? Be excessively descriptive? I think of Tom Clancy's books and boy that second one rings true when applied to his books. When I first started writing this thriller I'd hoped to leverage my experiences and history in Special Operations, now. . . particularly if Forsyth is my guide,. . . descriptions of my project management capabilities might be more apropos.

Also, I'm up to 38K for NaNoWriMo. I feel confident I'll hit 50K easily and probably 90K after revising and rewriting.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Two Links

Nathan Bransford has a link on Why He's Optomistic About EBooks (here). Nathan's blog is a staple for anyone hoping to learn more about the craft of writing queries and getting into publishing.

Second link comes from my brother (here). This is an interesting site. Basically send this group your book, hard cover, ebook or any other type, if they like it they'll tell there users and viewers about it. In the About Text they sum up the purpose of the site as "The Staff Recommends, a way to spread the book love across the internet at no cost to you, the book lover." Whether or not this is worthwhile depends on the size of their readership.

Monday, November 15, 2010

NaNoWriMo Links

Anyone who reads this blog is aware that I've been in the throes of a tough decsion regarding my story Toe the Line . . . whether to continue to search for an agent and publish following a conventional method or to self/ e publsih. Articles like this one (here) always make me swerve into the lane of self publishing. Still not sure which way to go. I have sent my query out to several agents, maybe this time I'll learn that it's a waste of time.

I enjoyed this article (here). For anyone who wants to know a bit of background about NaNoWriMo, or how another writer sees the event, it is a short read. Basically it let me know that I'm just as motivate as that dude and have the second guesses except I don't harken back to the movie Cool Runnings, for me, it's Never Been Licked (WHOOP!).

Finally there is this (here). Truthfully this link best represents my own opinion on NaNoWriMo. The article is titled Everyone Has a Certain Amount of Bad Writing to Get Out of Their System. This is the mantra I keep, even if my writing is horrid, it's writing. I look back on my last few year's NaNoWriMo submissions and they look nothing like the final manuscripts. In the words of Rebecca Howe when she was a part of Norm's painting company: "ust do it, Babe!"

Friday, November 12, 2010

Multiple Storylines

Donald Maass, in his oft cited (at least in this blog) book Writing the Breakout Novel mentions several different novels that he feels fit the mold of a breakout novel. One of these novels is Lonesome Dove, a favorite of mine. Seems to me that in Lonesome Dove there are a multitude of characters from whose eyes the reader sees the story (Augustus, Call, Pea, Newt, Lori, Clara, Elmira, Roscoe, July, Jake) all take a chance at showing their point of view. Each story is small by itself but each support the overall story of the trail ride moving North. I've always enjoyed stories like this. A multitude of stories that all contribute to a larger story. In Lonesome Dove there are small and large story parts. The reader has to wade through those slower, smaller ones in order to get to another bigger, faster storyline. It helps drive the story forward. The movie Crash was like this as well, multiple storylines with little linking them together that moves the story along a common theme.

Why's this coming up? I got to about 15,000 words and started to notice that my new National Novel Writing Month submission was turning a bit flat. It also looked like I would have a hard time getting to 50,000 words. Fearing the worst I added a second story line I'd been chewing on. Suddenly I had a slew of new characters, three new storylines, and now that I'm at 27,000 words I feel as though I'm only a third of the way through the story. I'm hoping to branch out again and find a third major storyline to add in as well.

So, here's the take away. Most writer's advise reading as much as you can in the genre in which you want to write. This past year I made a resolution to read one book on the writing craft for every three fiction books I read. For the most part I've stuck to it. Glad I did. If I hadn't read all those books on writing I never would have read Donald Maass' book, and had I not read that I doubt that writing this submission for National Novel Writing Month would have been as easy or my story as deep or compelling.

Yeah me!

Another Interesting Blog

I ran across a blog today that I really enjoyed reading. Added to this, the most recent blog post was apropos for my National Novel Writing Month work.

Another Slightly Scary Story by Draven Ames has a post on writing dialog (here). He explains nicely the difference of telling vs showing and how dialog can help reduce showing in a story, but what I really enjoyed was his advice on lying. He advises us to use white lies to flesh out a character to a greater degree for the reader. What I find interesting about this is the contradiction many of his bullet points have with the book I'm currently reading. All of his points are worthwhile and are repeated by many of the books on writing that I've recently read, but Dr. No by Ian Fleming that is currently at the number one spot on my bedside table chunks many of these rules out the window. Dialogue is short and rarely used. I just read the chapter where Honey Rider tells Bond about her past. Much more of this description than I expected was either Honey giving long speeches or Bond summing it up for the reader.

Just thought it was interesting. I'll keep Ames' blog in my hip pocket and check in often.

Also, I'm at the 26K mark for NaNoWriMo and still going strong.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Halfway

Each year the writing gets easier. This year it is surprisingly easy. I'm at the halfway mark, 25K words and I'm barely a third of the way through the story I have planned out. Secondly, and I must thank Donald Maass' book Writing the Breakout Novel, I believe this is a far deeper story than my previous NaNoWriMo entries. I'm actually looking forward to editing this sucker. Nevertheless, at eleven days in I'm at 25,401 words and still going strong.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

According to Grisham The Future Has Arrived

Although I was not much interested in this article titled Same-Day E-Book Sales Propel Grisham's Thriller by Jeffrey A. Tractehberg (here) about John Grisham's release of his next book via eBook at the same time as the hardcover, I did find two quotes that I found interesting.

First there was this:

"The e-book sales are astonishing," said Mr. Grisham in an interview. "Would anybody have thought that a year ago? The future has arrived, and we're looking at it."

I suppose I assumed we were already at this point. It's good to see everyone else is catching up to my view of the world.

The other:

"Mr. Grisham said he initially opposed selling his books digitally because he worried it would cripple his book sales at the independent bookstores that were among his earliest supporters. However, the author said he received numerous unhappy emails from readers who were upset that they couldn't buy his book digitally. "As an author, that hits pretty close to home," he said."

I think it's good to see an author listening to the fans and those fans having an impact. Makes me want to go out and buy it eventhough I'm not a Grisham fan.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Plot, Or Lack of One, Is Becoming a Problem

I'm up to 20,000 words, ahead of schedule but way behind on plot, thrills and character development. Missing these three things in a thriller novel is not good.

I find I have to continually remind myself that I'm not trying to produce a finished product. The first year I did NaNoWriMo the writing was so bad I don't think I've looked at it or even tried to edit it since I wrote it. Second year, also stank, but I've now edited that sucker to a point that I'm happy with it. If I look back at that rough draft and then the finished product there are very few similarities. The third year, same as the second. I'm in the process of editing it and I'm finding the same is true for this story as the other, the NaNoWriMo draft serves as a basis for the story but very little of what I actually wrote in NaNoWriMo is still in that sucker.

So what's the take-away? Keep writing I suppose. Even if it sucks I'll fix it in the editing process. I've done it before, I'll do it again. As so many people like to say, it's not writing that's hard, it's rewriting.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Links

I ran across a terrific blog post at the StarkInsider about the newness of the Kindle wearing off (here). Always a big fan of writing that makes me think, "Yeah, that's what I thought, I just wasn't able to put it so eloquently." But, this is fairly common in my life as I rarely put anything eloquently. I found it peculiar that not only was Loni Kao Stark expressing my opinions in her blog, she was also reading the books I want to read! Still, despite the author's nostaglia for reading contemporary books I find that the benefits of reading via the Kindle outweight the detriments. Short and worth reading.

I also ran across a blog that discussed and Economist article on eBooks. War on Error by John E. Dunn (here) discuss how the model for eBooks could change in the near future and book buying could become book lending with no buying ever really needed. An interesting concept to say the least. The Economist article (here) is short enought to be read quickly which is a bit stange based on my past experiences with Economist articles.

Finally there is this link (here) that is an announcement that many of the James Bond novels will shortly be available as eBooks. Appropos as that is exactly what I'm reading now. Wish I'd had the choice a month ago. Despite what Loni Kao Stark thinks, I would have preferred reading Dr. No on the Kindle.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Advice I'm Thrilled to Accept

I'm at 8000 words. End of Chapter 3 of my thriller novel. I'm less than thrilled with it.

That being said, I found two snippets of advice. First this (here), advice to newbie thriller writers. I think I fit in that class of writer at this point. Like most others, a couple of the points this author makes is first, read. Read lots. Second . . . write. Write lots. Even when you don't feel like doing either, it's good to buckle down and do them both. Good, simple, advice.

The second piece of advice comes from David Morrel of First Blood fame. His advice, and I've yet to try it, look forward to it though, is to go to a bookstore and read the first page of as many thrillers as there are on the shelves. He says that you'll find an amazing similarity among them, and on the whole you won't be impressed. But, when you do find that one, or two, that does make you sit up and take notice, stop and figure out why. He says that's what's important. Try to be a game changer.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Thrilling Links

Found my next favorite blog, and this one is incredibly timely. The Curzon Group appears to be a group of thriller writers who submit their work toward a common story. Years ago a radio host promoted this same concept. He asked a dozen or so thriller writers to write one chapter, one after the other, and continue a thriller novel as a group. Sounded like fun, and this Curzon group does too. I look forward to following it, particularly now that I'm trying my own hand at writing a thriller.

And as this is National Novel Writing Month, I found this link (here) that lists famous books that have been written in short time periods. (I believe I pulled this link from the Curzon Group website) I don't write my 50K word stories expecting them to come out perfectly. I'm not Robert B. Parker whose first draft is his last. I like this month becuase it makes me put something down and gives me a deadline for doing it. Self-editing while writing will come later I hope.

Publishers of the Future

Loved this article written by a publisher about the pitfalls and problems he sees with e-publishing (here). One quote by Mr. Paul Biba's article in Teleread caught my eye;

"If you remember only one thing from reading this article, let it be this: metadata really matters for ebooks. On the web, reading with your e-reader, on your phone or however/wherever you access ebooks, discovery is everything. Unlike in a physical bookstore where you can browse shelves and find that next perfect book that you want to read, how you find a book online (whether a physical book or a digital book) is all about metadata. So making sure all those descriptive pieces are correct and where they’re supposed to be really matters."

This is something that I'm dealing with in my real world job and it's interesting to see that if I do get published, I shant get away from it.

Finally, thanks to some advice from a leading muckety-muck in the publishing industry I'm going to be reading, researching and posting some articles on how to properly quote articles and other materials in a blog. To begin, I found this generic article (here) on eHow by C.L. Williams. Good all around starting place, look forward to refining my base of knowledge base.

So Far...But So Far To Go

I'm 4300 words into my first thriller novel. Still a long way to go.

But, there's no payoff at the end according to this article (here) so at least I got that going for me. The best line in the article? Is one I've heard before. When Elmore Leonard was asked what writer's should write in order to insure they get the most money his answer was "ransom notes."

Finally, I read an article (here) about critique groups. In it she discusses both the importance of critique groups as well as what a young writer should look out for. I post it if only because a week or so ago I posted about that same subject (here and here). One area where I and the author differ is on online critique groups. She writes that it is best to eschew them. I feel that my own usage of one is due in part to the demands of my youngsters. I do hope to find a "flesh and blood" critique group that I might enjoy reading with, but until then I actually feel lucky with the one that I found.

Monday, November 1, 2010

First Day and First Line

Not mine, but a great first line for the first day of NaNoWriMo.

"Punctually at six o'clock the sun set with a last yellow flash behind the Blue Mountains, a wave of fiolet shadow poured down Richmond Road, and the crickets and tree frogs in the fine gardens began to zing and tinkle."

Ian Fleming - Dr. No.

I hope that my NaNoWriMo first line will eventually be this lyrical, but I doubt it. I like Fleming becasue he reminds me of James Dickey of Deliverance fame and Pat Conroy. I think they all sound poetic when they write.

As to my NaNo effort, I'm writing the thriller about the burglar that I posted last week. Moving onward and upward from mysteries.