Friday, December 30, 2011

Prediction Noted and I Agree

One of my favorite political writers, John Derbyshire, a true curmudgeon, has provided a list of predictions for 2012 at National Review (here).

He provides his predictions in an interesting style, for instance the list includes: "The following things will become less popular in the advanced world" and "The following things will get better."

One of the things that he puts in the list for "get better" is e-book formats. I agree. But that's not the reason for this post. It's the two words he puts within his final string of predictions:

"One or more of the following canoes will arrive at the lip of Niagara: the euro, the North Korean government, the finances of a major U.S. state or municipality, the student-loan system, Eric Holder, book publishing, China’s banking system."

Firstly, I love the way he phrases that prediction for disaster. I wish I had thought of it. Secondly, I agree with his prediction on book publishing.

The other day I read and article in the WSJ by Jeffrey A. Trachtenberg called E-Book Readers Face Sticker Shock (here) in which he explains that e-books from noted writers or potential best sellers will be priced the same or higher than their conventionally printed brothers as they have more features, can be read on multiple platforms, more portable, etc.

This is the wrong way to go publishers. The way the masses see it is e-books save you on printing and shipping costs, we should see those savings when we buy the books. Not to mention the fact that we can't place that sucker on a shelf as a household ornament when we buy it as an e-book.

Sorry to say with the trend that that article shows, Derbyshire's prediction are a certainty.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

No More Truly Original Posts

An astute reader has shown me what Oliver Wendell Jones' teacher lamented years ago in a Bloom County cartoon. That there truly are no more original ideas.

Apparently a screed regarding the very subject I brought up this morning can be found (here). Sadly for this blog JM Tohline completes a far, far better take down of the same pabulum that I focused on that I.

Just as it is too bad "porcupines are allergic to raisins" it is too bad for me that Tohline exists. Failure is hardly original.

For the Money

A few weeks ago a reader posted a comment to something I said that intoned that if I was not in writing for the love of writing, if I was only in it for the money then I was writing for the wrong reason. I think this is a silly point of view and what's worse, I hear it constantly.

What's wrong with being in something for the money. I am at my present job, as a business analyst for an industrial cleaning company for the money. Never throughout my life did I think I wanted to work for a company that picked up waste and cleaned out refineries. I fell into it and now I do it just for the money. I don't love doing it, yet I'm good at it.

I want to make money off of my writing. Do I write for fun? Sure, its a hobby, but if there was no way to make money off of it I wouldn't do it. Then there's the argument that writers write to tell a story and that's the compelling reason they write. Thanks Captain Obvious. But by telling that story they want to make money. They want to tell (and sell) that story to as many people as possible, that's the impetus behind their writing.

Nothing is wrong with capitalism or trying to make a buck, hell that's what makes this country so great, so it always irritates me when people say they write cause its in their soul and they'd do it even if they didn't make any money. I say bologna!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Tad Worried About My Followers

Uh oh. I never expected this to happen. In fact it makes me worried about the type of people who read this blog, but several folks have asked about that novel with the tragic and horrific first line I wrote about yesterday.

Apparently Linda Chavez, a contributor to National Review and I believe former Secretary of Labor under George HW Bush, knows a bit about North Korea.

Nevertheless, for those of you who want to be further horrified, the snippet of her novel is linked (here).

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Shock But Not Much Awe

It's a bit of a run on sentence, but it certainly has shock value, which I suppose is what you want when you write a novel about the horror show of North Korean life.

"She held the large plastic bucket in front of her as the midwife severed the umbilical cord with a blood-smeared butcher knife before tossing the squirming infant into the pail."

Afterbirth - Linda Chavez

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

A Bit Out of Order

So, yeah, as you could guess by the book reviews I've been posting, this first line is a bit out of order. I read this several weeks ago.

"Okay so here I am, Lee Morris, opening doors and windows to gusts of life and early death."

Decider - Dick Francis

It's a bit prosaic, some would say, but it's a good little first line, unassuming, light and fun. Just like the rest of the novel. What I think is smart is that it actually foreshadows the ending quite nicely. Writer's Digest last month said that a good first line should do just that. Plus it makes sense when the reader realizes that the man thinking this is an architect.

The Imaginary Blonde by Ross MacDonald or The Way Hard Boiled Should Be

I’ve never read a story by Ross MacDonald, but I’ve read one now, and I can guarantee it won’t be the last. As fun as a Nero Wolfe mystery, with just about the same style and aplomb, but with far more of the hard-boiled attitude. It typifies the genre. The Imaginary Blonde took all of one night (maybe two) to read but not because it was too short, it was hard to put down.

I must have dozed for a few minutes. A dream rushed by the threshold of my consciousness, making gentle noises. Death was in the dream. He drove a black Cadillac loaded with flowers. When I woke up, the cigarette was starting to burn my fingers. A thin man in a gray flannel shirt was standing over me with a doubtful look on his face.

I suppose I marked this one for two reasons. First, I really liked the fact that the dream rushed by the threshold of his consciousness and made gentle noises. That seems like an apropos way to describe a dream. Secondly, I like the rat-a-tat-tat way of describing the events of his waking up.

At one point, the protagonist is looking down at a man who has just been shot to death and he says to the reader, “He was rough looking in spite of his anemia.” What a terrific way to say that he was dead. Later on that same page when a lady sees him coming back he says, “Ellas’ welcome was a few degrees colder than absolute zero.” Both of these are so prototypical of the hard-boiled genre it seems to me.

Later the protagonist is being beaten up by the villain, he states:

“The men in the blue serge held me upright by the arms while Gino used my head as a punching bag. I rolled left and rights as well as I could but his timing improved and mine deteriorated.”

It’s the his improved mine deteriorated that caught my attention.

Finally, one last simile. He says:

“Thank God,” he echoed, shaking his fist at her. She retreated like a schooner under full sail, menaced by a gunboat.”

Just the one vocabulary word.

Circassian – Relating to or denoting a group of mainly Sunni Muslim peoples of the Northwest Causcasus.

This was recommended to me by a very good friend and I’m glad that she took the effort. I like hard-boiled mysteries particularly those that remind me of Alfred Hitchcock short stories, that don’t take themselves too seriously, and are quick, fun reads that offer a look into 1950’s era writing. I look forward to more.

The Rest of the World is Catching Up to this Blog

This is what two in one week. Two major articles on the benefits of self-publishing via the digital format? This one is in today's USA Today (here) and actually hits on the one reason I have not yet ventured boldly forth into this market with my own (rather pathetic) wares.

The article by Deirdre Donahue entitled Self-published authors find e-success
is actually a bit more readable than its WSJ counterpart from last week (here). Plus it focuses on more authors although Miss Chan makes another appearance. It's a good article for anyone considering this route to publishing, but the caveat I mention above is nestled away, way down at the bottom of the printed page and says:

"One reason Prescott is able to capitalize on the e-book revolution is that he already has a back list of novels previously edited and released by traditional publishers. (When his publisher let the book go out of print, the rights reverted to Prescott.)"


I have one little book that still has some flaws that need to be edited away. How big of a splash can I make with one.

I will say this, these articles do make me want to finish up little book number two so that my library is a tad more impressive. Then, with two novels and a short story compilation, we'll see what happens.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Decider or An Old Friend

I read a book which is now starting to feel like an old friend, Decider by Dick Francis. I can’t remember the first time I read this, nor can I remember how many times I’ve read it, but it has to be three or four times. Each time I read it I like it more.

Decider’s protagonist is Lee Morris, an architect, with five kids. It’s probably one of the more light-hearted and easy to read Francis mysteries, and I guess that is one of the reasons I like reading it so much.

A couple of the lines I marked this time include:

Rebecca sulked angrily. Marjorie’s disapproval grew vigorous runners in her direction, like a ramplant strawberry plant.

The five boys roamed around scavenging, Toby having joined them belatedly. The Strattons had left. Outside, horseboxes were loading the last winners and losers. The urgency was over, and the striving, and the glories. The incredible weekend was folding its wings.

I like both of the above passages for the imagery that they present. The runners quote made me think of ivy that tears down aged fences, until he brought up the strawberry plants. I think mine would have been better. The folded its wings, says a lot with just a little metaphor.

There were only two vocabulary words that I highlighted.

Salver – A tray, typically one made of silver and used in formal circumstances.
Obloquy – Strong public criticism or verbal abuse.

Just like the last few times, I loved it. Fast, fun, and easy. A good little thriller cum mystery.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Impressive

I read with great relish an article today by Alexandra Alter called How I Became a Best-Selling Author (here). It is all about how Darcie Chan sold over 400,000 copies of her book and still can't find anyone to publish it. I did not learn much more than I already knew before, charge 0.99 not 2.99 despite the difference in royalties, how to pay for reviews and get traction on your novel, but what I gleaned from the article was that publishers still don't trust ebook sales.

It was a great article to tell new authors how they might find readership, how to publish their books as ebooks, etc. and I would heartily recommend it to any writer who wants to be an author. But the passage that stuck in my craw the most was this one:

Sales kept climbing. In July, it sold more than 14,000 copies. That month, it was featured on two of the biggest sites for e-book readers, generating a surge of new sales. In August, it sold more than 77,000 copies and hit the New York Times and USA Today e-book best-seller lists; it later landed on the Wall Street Journal list. In September, it sold more than 159,000 copies. To date, she has sold around 413,000 copies.

Ms. Chan and her agent decided to resubmit the novel to all the major imprints, citing robust sales figures and rave online reviews. Some publishers have responded warily. A representative of one publishing house feared the book had "run its course," Ms. Liss recalls. Others worried about the novel's bargain basement price, arguing that an e-book that sells for 99 cents likely won't command a typical hardcover price of around $26.


Now, I guess that they know there business better than I, but by the same token it seems to me that they're looking at a possible best seller and saying, "I'll pass."

Good for Miss Chan nevertheless.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

A Compelling Random Sample

One thing that I think would be incredibly hard to do is to self-promote my own book. I don’t think I have it in me to be a cheerleader for my own stuff. That being said, my new acquaintance, Andrew Greenwood sure seems to make it look easy.

Andrew has written several novels (here) that based on my first reading aren’t half bad. He’s got a terrific plot in the first book Random Sample, some engaging characters, and for a native Houstonian, it’s fun to read about so many places in my home city from his character’s point of view.

He’s also terrific at self-promotion. I heard about him from a friend of mine who read one of his books and when I went online to order one I had an email from him in no time with an offer to deliver the books personally and for a personalized signature. When the books did show up he included several of his books.

So, you tell me if he’s good at self-promotion. He’s just sold three instead of one of his books, he’s just made a fan out of someone who might not have given him a second though otherwise, and I’m probably going to “re-gift” the books once I’m done with them, thereby inspiring more people to become Greenwood fans. I say that he’s doing all the right things.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Book Interrupted

I'm interrupting my progress through Alex Brennerman's spy novel (which by the way is completely engaging) to read a draft of my writing buddy's National Novel Writing Month submission. The title of the work by Beverly Miller, who completed the 50K contest with over a week to spare is For the Imagination. So, with no further ado, I present her first line.

"It is sometimes said that imagination is often more terrifying than the truth."

For the Imagination - Beverly Miller

Not bad, but I think it would have benefited from a bit more. The next few lines help.

"It is sometimes said that imagination is often more terrifying than the truth. We are often more scared by what isn't seen - by what we think is there, than what is actually there. But what happwens when the imagination meets reality? What do we find out about others when we see their dreams and fears? What do we find out about ourselves when imaginations come to life?"

Not bad. I like the voice she has already developed. I look forward to the other 49,736 words.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Banker or Such a Prosaic Title for a Thriller

I finished Dick Francis' Banker last month. I remember this book well. Not because I read it and liked it, not because of it's well written prose, or thrilling plot. Nope, I remember Banker cause it was perhaps the first "adult" novel I came in contact with as it was always positioned within eyesight in my parent's library. It had a bright yellow cover and picture of horse intermixed with a dollar sign. I never read it as a child and remember thinking how horrible a book on banking must be. I would have been wrong. It's just as good as all of his other works. A bit odd, the relationship the main character has with the love interest, but that's par for the course for Francis. Still in all I loved reading it and it got me into a fine fettle for National Novel Writing Month.

A few quotes are listed below.

At one point the main character is describing a scene at a dinner party as:
"Henry Shipton and his wife were standing in the doorway to the balcony, alternately facing out and in, like a couple of Januses. Henry across the room lifted his glass to me in a gesture of acknowledgement, and Lorna as ever look as if faults were being found."

I like the way he uses the line about Janus to show that they were looking all about them.

Then later, the main character finds that he is falling more and more in love with the wife of his friend. He has to continually remind himself to quit falling for her.
"We went down to the paddock, saw the horses walk at close quarters round the ring and watched the jockeys mount ready to ride out onto the course. Judith smelled nice. Stop it, I told myself. Stop it."

What guy hasn't had to remind himself of certain things in his life, maybe not as tragic as unrequited love, but I like the way Francis makes his main characters human through this.

Finally, one that made me think of my own wife.
"Mind you," Judith said forgivingly, "his second wife was the most gorgeous thing on earth, but without tow thoughts to rub together. Even Dissdale got tired of the total vacancy behind the sensational violet eyes. It's all very well to get a buzz when all men light up on meeting your wife, but it rather kicks the stilts away when the same men diagnose total dimness within five minutes and start pitying you instead."

I can say with all honesty I've never been pitied by my friends.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Nosegay Power Points?

I visited Miami once, years ago. I met a family friend who was aware of my aspirations to become an author. He arranged for us to go to a bookstore to hear an author. I was looking forward to it. Then I got there. He read some pages from his book and then it was cocktail hour. I kind of felt like I was missing something. It seemed somewhat shallow and pompous. Now that I’ve read this article by Joanne Kaufman called Rethinking the Familiar Book Tour (here), I see that I’m not the only one who feels this way.

The best quote of the article is this:
“We want them to leave the event saying 'wow,'" said Ms. Jennings, who'd like to say something similar when she looks at the cash register receipts after one of these events. One recent example: a visit from Vanessa Diffenbaugh, who spoke about the foster-care system—a theme of her debut novel, "The Language of Flowers"—and who gave a PowerPoint presentation about the significance of particular nosegays in the Victorian era.

I don’t know about you, but I have a hard time believing that I’d leave a reading with a nosegay power point as the kicker saying “wow.” But, there could be some out there who would.

Additionally, was this line:
At Boswell Books in Milwaukee, the store's owner, Daniel Goldin, suggests a hybrid: a talk (what inspired the book? is the protagonist based on a real person?) sandwiched between the reading of two brief passages. In lieu of readings, Roxanne Coady, the owner of R.J. Julia Booksellers in Madison, Conn., will sometimes conduct an interview with an author. "Audiences feel they're getting something unusual and intimate, and sales of the book go up," she said.

How many readers would I win over when I tell them my inspiration . . . to make money and to eventually quit the day job. Hardly enough to inspire folks to part with their money.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Dick Hannah Stayed Here

I read Maria Finn’s article in the WSJ The Write Stuff (here) last weekend and was less than inspired. Do I think it’s a neat idea to stay in hotels or apartments where famous literary heroes may have stayed? Sure. Would I want to stay in any that are highlighted in the novel? No. A thousand times no.

Despite being less than inspired to go travel as Miss Finn suggests, I was inspired to think about where I would want to go and where I would want to stay.
First, I think it would be fun to start a trail ride down on the border and ride it north just like they did in Lonesome Dove. You could camp out along the way and read passages of the book along the way. What a spectacular way to both camp, and to read a great novel.

Secondly, a Dick Francis tour. I’m sure they have these and if I ever get over to England I’m determined to join one, but a tour of the horse racing venues that Dick Francis uses as backdrops for his mysteries would be incredible. The problem? There would be too many.

Probably not what others would like, but certainly more personal and personally inspirational than those listed in the article.

Another First, but Just What You'd Expect

I'm reading a hard-boiled mystery by Ross Macdonald from the mid 1950's. The first line is as good as they get.

“It was a Friday night. I was tooling home from the Mexican border in a light blue convertible and a dark blue mood.”

The Imaginary Blonde – Ross Macdonald

Who wouldn’t want to read on more after starting with that.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The Word-Smither Strikes Again

My five year old's custom words and unique formulations have become less frequent since he started reading more, but he came up with one today when his uncle asked him what his favorite chocolate was.

"I like chocolate mint but I really like chocolate smudge."

Took me just a split second to translate it, but in the end I really liked it.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Statistics

Of my twenty-eight buddies, some of who were hold-overs from last year, four have completed National Novel Writing Month successfully. One of my buddies is all the way up to 80K already. I'm sure that I have at least four Facebook compatriots who have announced their finishing (it all a bit ambiguous as I can't see their word totals on Facebook).

Having given it some great deal of thought, I think much of this disparity has to do with age. Most of my buddies are my own age. When we write to one another a common theme is what to do with kiddos when we write. Facebookers are primarily teens and twenties. What do they know about juggling kids, work, spouses, and writing.

Still, I envy them. I wish I had been writing 50K novels at twenty-three.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Having Made it to 50K . . .

Having made it to 50,000 words (50,010) to be exact, I still have quite a bit of story left.



This is the fifth time I've gotten to 50,000 words, and I have to say that it gets easier each time. I still have at least 10K more words just on the story I'm currently developing and I have several sub-plots that I never fully fleshed out, so I can see this being a bit larger even still. Editing will cull it down, but the point is that each National Novel Writing Month gets easier. Hopefully the editing will get easier too.

The other nice thing? I have some great support. I have about 20 writing buddies and some people I see via Facebook. I had less or neither of these support features when I wrote the first few times. Makes me wonder how much they played a part. I will say that the local Facebook chapter is far more prolific than my writing buddies. I had two writing buddies who finished before I did, the others are still 10K or more shy. I saw many, many of the Facebookers had hit 50K a week or more ago.

Onward to Script Frenzy in the Spring and NaNoEdMo! (Seriously, I didn't just make that up. It's an even sillier sounding anagram than NaNoWriMo, but I'm not in charge).

Worrisome Title

Upon reading the title of an Economist article my brother sent me, I thought I might want to ready my wife to return the Kindle Fire she has no doubt already ordered for me for Christmas. The title is Fire in the Hole (here) and it is worth reading for anyone considering a Fire.

I found the most prescient passage to be:

"One big difference between the iPad and the Fire was that the latter was shipped preloaded with Babbage's Amazon account, and thus linked to all of the digital purchases he ever made on Amazon, as well as music uploaded to its Cloud Drive, divided neatly into categories like newsstand, video, music and books. The appropriate aisles of Amazon's digital store load by default in each tab. Purchases past and future can be also downloaded onto the device or streamed from the cloud. The process is so simple that one might expect Apple to have come up with it. (Accessing content on the iPad is incomparably more finicky.) The streaming option is particularly nifty, especially since the Fire boasts little storage—just 8 gigabytes, compared with an iPad's 16, 32 or 64 gigabytes."

This is exactly what I'm looking for. I'm not looking to dump my library of books and start over, I like having all those with me when I go from reader to reader. I want my content.

Nevertheless, the passage that should make all Apple devotees like my brother feel secure is the last:

"For all that, the Fire is not an iPad killer. But nor does it need to be. Mr Bezos has built a clever little gizmo which, especially at its low price, may yet put a dent in Apple's dominant, even overweening position. Consumers can only benefit."

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Kindle Fire

The other day I hinted to the wife that I wanted a Kindle Fire for Christmas. I know, I know, . . . regular readers will howl about how I have not been the greatest fan of tablets for reading in past posts, but having read a few reviews (here and here)I think I would like one.

Despite the rather rough review from PC World, having read it, I realize that the things that the Mellissa Perenson says are the shortcomings for the Fire are the very things I don't want. I don't want a tablet, I want an e-reader that provides more functionality for reading periodicals and books. If I wanted a tablet I'd go with the iPad. I don't. I want an e-reader. What I like the most? What Miss Perenson says here, is what I'm looking for.

"The Fire's integration with Amazon's media storefronts is, bar none, the best thing about this tablet. Rather than giving you one place to shop and another to use your digital media, Amazon consolidates those experiences into one."

That and my existing libarary of content, and I'll be happy.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Where Are We Now?

Things are moving swimmingly with National Novel Writing Month. I'm over the 35K mark and well on my way to 50K. I think I'll have more than enough story to go beyond 50K, but will I get it all in in the one month.



I will admit that things have slowed down. Tomorrow though I have a business trip. As you can see from the graph, my first week, when I was travelling to Ohio, I got a ton done. I won't promise that this business trip will provide the same productivity, as New Orleans doesn't offer the same flight time, but I'm hoping that it will help me get past this final hump.

Monday, November 14, 2011

In the Absence of Anything Better to Post

As I'm knee-deep, and thirty-five thousands words deep into my novel, along with several thousand other National Novel Writing Monthers, I offer this repost from the Monkey See Blog (here) all about How to Name your Novel.

My favorite: If Your First Novel Will Be A Workplace Satire - At Least They Left Us The [A PIECE OF OFFICE MACHINERY]

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Nota Bene

Uh oh. This is a good note to self. If you want to be a published and well known spy thriller novel, probably best NOT to plagarize. The whole article, Spy Thriller: 'An Instant Classic' Vanishes Amid Plagiarism Charges by Jefferey A Trachtenberg (here), is well worth reading but I've quoted (not lifted!) segments below.

The Hook

The book is a thriller about an elite CIA agent chasing a shadowy international group of assassins. But Tuesday, publisher Little, Brown & Co. recalled all 6,500 copies of the novel on the grounds that passages were "lifted" from other books. One sharp-eyed observer says he had identified at least 13 novels with similar material.

The Proof

One example, noted by spy novelist Jeremy Duns, is this passage from "Assassin of Secrets": "Then he saw her, behind the fountain, a small light, dim but growing to illuminate her as she stood naked but for a thin, translucent nightdress; her hair undone and falling to her waist—hair and the thin material moving and blowing as though caught in a silent zephyr." The same sentence appears precisely in "License Renewed," a James Bond novel by John Gardner, a search of Google Books shows.
Although not in and of itself damning, this next passage is enough to nail the coffin down.

On the first page of chapter one of "Assassin" is this paragraph: "The boxy, sprawling Munitions Building which sat near the Washington Monument and quietly served as I-Division's base of operations was a study in monotony. Endless corridors connecting to endless corridors. Walls a shade of green common to bad cheese and fruit. Forests of oak desks separated down the middle by rows of tall columns, like concrete redwoods, each with a number designating a particular work space."

In the book "Body of Secrets: Anatomy of the Ultra-Secret National Security Agency" by James Bamford is this: "In June 1930, the boxy, sprawling Munitions Building, near the Washington Monument, was a study in monotony. Endless corridors connecting to endless corridors. Walls a shade of green common to bad cheese and fruit. Forests of oak desks separated down the middle by rows of tall columns, like concrete redwoods, each with a number designating a particular workspace."


YOW! Why do folks do this. There are things that I read from my favorite authors that I might want to mimic. For example, in Three for the Chair by Rex Stout, Archie uses a characters mannerisms to describe the character, but he does it in a clever and funny way (see more here) but I wouldn't dream of actually cutting and pasting the entire section into my book.

Not a big fan of plagarism. Avoid it at all costs!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Sorry for the Silence

I've been working so hard on my latest National Novel Writing Month entry that I just haven't been able to find the time to write any blog entries. The good news is that this effort is going quite well. At this point I only have to write 1000 words a day from now until the end of November to finish with 50K words. I think I'm on pace for over 100K if I keep this up.



The best part? At about 17K I started to get worried I would run out of story. I added a whole new sub-plot and BLAMMO! I'm off! No more worries about hitting 50K.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

National Geographic Article

Whenever i travel for work I like to read national geographic during those few times that I have to "power off anything with a on off switch." It takes just about the right amount of time to reach 10K feet as it takes to read an article. One that read a month or so ago dealt with elephant orphans in Kenya (here). It was a great article and I almost decided to write a mystery novel set in that type of environment just cause I thought the story was so terrific.

I get my ideas from a myriad of sources, from friends, from relatives, from all sorts of articles that I read. I passed this article along to a fellow National Novel Writing Month writer who from what I've read and seen from her website has some significant experience in Africa. Who know, maybe a few years from now I'll have the chance to read a mystery novel that focus on orphan elephants. If it was inspired by this article its bound to be good.

Friday, November 4, 2011

YA Bullet Points

Great article on YA writing in the WSJ (here). What Kids Want in A Novel by Malie Meloy has several great points, but there are one or two which I find better than most, including:

"Don't write down. Kids read up. After hearing that my book takes place during the Cold War, some parents have worried that their children won't know the history. But all information is new information to kids. They're designed to absorb it, and they follow the emotional story."

"This might be the most important one: Stuff has to happen. Right from the start. Roald Dahl said, "Children are a great discipline because they are highly critical. And they lose interest so quickly. You have to keep things ticking along." I think that should be true of books for adults, too. I complained to a friend that I had stopped reading three much-admired novels in a row because I was on page 60 in each and nothing had happened."

Some of the aspiring writers in the writing group I was a part of were YA writers. I don't think I could do it, particularly fantasy YA. I find it hard enough just writing for my own level of reading, I would imagine that writing YA would be as hard as writing from the opposite sex point of veiw. Still, a good article.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

I Don't Usually Paste Pictures

Sorry its been so long, but I've been traveling and as I said in my previous post, there are few things better than traveling for writing. I have proof this time. I'm up to 14,000 words on my National Novel Writing Month entry.



I'm really cranking it out. As a seasoned vet of these things I guess I've learned that it doesn't matter at this point how polished the prose are, all that matters is getting them on the page. Either that or I've learned that a five year old and a one year old aren't conducive to writing so I'm trying to get as much done as possible whilst I'm away. Whatever the case, I'm way ahead of schedule. (Writing that made me think about the Bandit and Snowman. Let's hope I have an equal or better ending than those two).

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Where Do I Write

There is a forum in the National Novel Writing Month website (here) that asks "where is the best place to write, coffee shop, home, or library?" I say none of the above!

Few things beat airport terminals for writing. Southwest has the spectacular powered chairs that allow me to charge my computer while I write. Then, once I get on the plane, there I am, ensconced in the seat, with nothing to do but write until the plane lands. No people milling about, no crazy travellers on cell phones, no loud speakers announcing the next flight.

The only bad part is that at the beginning and end of the flight I have to "turn off anything that has an on off switch." That's a bit of a pain, but I've found that I get to recharge a bit, think about where I'm going, and to reconsider my plot.

The bad news. Although this travel today has allowed me to get to 5337 words on day one, I don't have many more travel days coming up in November. Still, I look forward to flying home on Thursday. Maybe I can get a quarter of the way through the contest by Friday.

And So It Begins

My first “mission” in the military I was shuttled into the Washington State wilderness on a decrepit Huey that looked as though it was older than I was. I had been in the battalion for less than a day. I was hustled out with my squad to the airfield and with barely a check to see that I had everything I would need, we were off for a week in the field. During that mission I lost two sets of gloves, an undershirt and two pair of under-roos that I didn’t really need, three magazines, a blank adapter for the muzzle of my weapon, a cap and mysteriously, a bootlace.

As is common in the military, each lost article of gear resulted in marathon punishment routines that consisted mostly of pushups. I learned quickly to pack directly from the packing list, no more no less, to have my gear tied down, stowed or packed to take the rigors of our missions, and to go to the field prepared.

Other than that first mission, I don’t think I’ve ever been less prepared for anything as I am for this National Novel Writing month.

Last year I remember I had a firm idea of what I was doing, the type of book it was going to be, the character description and an outline of the first few chapters. This year . . . zilch. I have a loose outline and some ideas. That’s it. Heck when I started writing this morning I changed the POV!

Still, I just read an article about inspiration and how creative ideas will come to the fore when you least expect it. I’m hoping that my creativity comes up now and stays for the whole month

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Most Recent First Line

I actually gave up on a book the other day. I rarely if ever do this. Usually if I step in something I keep on going despite the consequences. Not this time. As a lark, and to fill time before the start of National Novel Writing Month, I bough Crunch Time by Diane Mott Davidson.

I read one her books a few years ago and liked it. It was moderately clever, I loved the fact that the recipes and dishes described in the book were reproduced as real recipes in the back of the book. It was fun.

When I read a second book by her I started to realize that she had some serious flaw in terms of her style and writing ability. It was off putting to say the least. I reviewed it in this blog (here).

I should have listened to myself and never have started Crunch Time.

Still, as I read the first few pages and the first line, here is the first few lines that didn't intrigue me enough to read on:

"When I heard that Ernest McLeod had been killed, I should have packed up my knives and left. Well, not literally left, because I was in my own kitchen, poised to slice a third pile of juicy heirloom tomatoes for a buffet Yolanda Garcia and I were catering the next day."

I'm glad I stopped it ahead of getting too involved.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Another Recent First

With National Novel Writing Month only a few days away, I'm begining to realize that I'll need to craft my own first line in very little time. I just read this one the other day:

"OK, so here I am, Lee Morris, opening doors and windows to gusts of life and early death."


Decider - Dick Francis

By no means the best first line I've ever read, but despite that he does a terrific job in the next few pages of emmersing the reader into the life of the protagonist. I'm up to chapter 3 now, so it obviously did it's job.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Most Recent First Line

Yep, as I said, I'm back to reading. I'm reading my favorites too, trying to get in the right frame of mind for the upcoming National Novel Writing Month. Based on the genre and the author you can pretty much assume I shant be writing many of the 3rd person thriller novel ideas I threw out these past few weeks.

I know I've read this one before, but I didn't remember an awful lot about it, so it was pleasantly surprising all around.

"Gordon Michaels stood in the fountain with all his clothes on."

Banker - Dick Francis

Not the best opening line, but not the worst either. I know I might be bias but I read till the very end and finished the novel in record time.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

A Flashman for Our Era

I found this article (here) and incredibly engrossing book idea.

The article, The Old Soldier Who Didn't Fade Away by Michael Phillips is all about a 59 year old sergeant in the Army. He signed up cause he wanted to go to war in Afghanistan. He got his wish. He's a part of a Psy Ops group. He's actually trained as a podiatrist and he's trying to use this to get a commission so he can stay in. Apparently you can't be in the enlisted ranks after 60. He actually served in the Marine and was one of the last ones to leave.

Ever read the Flashman Chronicles by George MacDonald Frazier (here), add in a few more deployments and this could be a modern day flashy.

The Valley of Despair is No Place to Hang Out for Long

So, as I said in my previous posts (here and here), I stopped reading to concentrate on my writing. For the most part it worked. I say for the most part cause it was a good short term kick in the pants. In the long term it worked against me.

In order to get ready and in the right mindset for NaNoWriMo (quite possibly the lamest name ever) I decided to download and read a book from one of my favorite authors, Banker by Dick Francis. Based just on reading a few pages from that I've been re-inspired and have written more in my novel than I did the entire last few weeks. Granted, I was also stuck on a plane for 4 hours, but still the inspiration was there.

The valley worked, but in the long run its no place to stay for long periods.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Great Story

I'm a sucker for stories like these (here). This one called Oprah of the Piney Woods by Brittanie Shey. It lets you know that yes there is a chance to strike it big, even if you're small.

As a tease to get you to click the link:

One of her favorite quotes is "So when life hands you a lemon, forget lemonade, make margaritas."


Sadly, I've not had a chance to read the entire article, so I'm sure there are more in there. If there are, I'll have more blog entries for later in the week.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Roommate Novel

Another NaNo idea I have, and this is rather apropos considering that Catch 22 is 50 years old today, is a comic novel about my old Army roommate. This fellow was a Mormon and might have been the worst Mormon I’ve ever met. We snapped a picture of him playing poker at a casino once, at two in the morning with two drunk girls on his lap, a cigarette, a half drunk bottle of beer and a dip in his mouth. That image pretty much summed him up. Have you ever seen these movies wherein they motivate and train monkey by enticing them with a banana? Substitute the monkey for my roommate and make the banana a beer and you know what motivated him. Although I tried not to spend too much time with him, I invariably did so, and I accrued a treasure trove of interesting stories.

So, although I think this could be a good NaNo topic if I don’t find myself motivated by any of the others, I also think that this story could be more of a compilation of short stories and might be better as a non-NaNo project.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Punctuation and Research

As a writer, I often have to do research into grammar, punctuation and other such hoi polloi that must needs be inserted into my books and stories. To that end I am posting these two links:

The first is one I remember from years ago. It came to me again the other night when I was watching Masterpiece Mystery with Inspector Lewis. His partner made a big stink out of missplaced apostrophes. Here is an entire site dedicated to missused quotation marks (here). It's a fun read to see how folks can use them incorrectly.

The second is a site dedicated to arcane facts and answers to odd questions. As my son is now "into" dinosaurs, I will post the question of the day. You'll have to go to the site (here) for the answer. The question: Could I take down a T. rex with my Beretta 9mm pistol? If you want the answer, follow the link. (Don't mock, it actually has more to do with writing than you think, apparently there is an e-book you can buy for your Kindle dedicated to this subject, rexGun by Stephen W. Templar. It even has a five star review.)

Just two of the arrows in my writing quiver. More to come soon I'm sure.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Getting Ever Closer

So, as NaNo comes closer, I have more and more ideas that I want to write about.

The second idea comes by way of my brother.

Leveraging my military experience and my desire to write a thriller, my bro wants me to write a novel depicting two Special Forces units involved in hostilities in "the Ghan." I believe that some of this idea came about when he was watching a show that showed a Spec Ops unit all hepped up on testosterone refusing to be called off from the objective. The idea would be to have the two units involved in a long range fire fight neither of them knowing that they are actually shooting at one another. Each unit could call in air strikes on the other and continue to escalate the battle without ever realizing who the enemy is. It was my addition to have a native, enemy, unit watching the battle and instigating action when they see it starting to lull.

Some of the themes that might be fun to play with include out running the lines of communication in battle, a la Pat Tillman, the intransigency and stubbornness of Spec Ops operators in regards to mission completion, and the splintered chain of command in the Spec Ops community. This last has always been a bone of contention with me.

Might be a better novella than actual novel, but I think it'd be easy to get to 50K with.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Yet Another Novel Idea for NaNo

Last year I helped set up a digital video conference for police departments who used COBAN technology, a local dash mounted video camera maker. We watched an extremely disturbing dash mounted video camera scene where in a man who is caught in the country making meth, beats up and eventually kills a police officer who was trying to arrest him. The entire fight was caught in front of the camera and lasted for fifteen minutes. It was horrifying. We had several others like it, includeing high speed crashes caught on tape that killed the officers, and some that showed police missconduct.

My idea was to have a flunky for a dash mounted video camera maker who goes around to different departments to help them with their videos. He sees from one department that they are trying to hide a very high level murder that one of their officers was involved in. Naturally he doesn't know who to turn to and he is eager to extricate himself from the situation, but the department heads learn that he knows what is going on and the full force of the department is arrayed against our main character as he tries to escape. I would throw a partner into it who gets killed and maybe the original victims family would be involved. It would require quite a bit more development, but I think it would be interesting and I could leverage my dash cam experience.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Another 2011 NaNo Idea

Another idea for this years novel I'm kicking around is Soul Food. I've wanted to write Soul Food for years. It is a Sci-Fi about an astronaut who bungles a mission in space, falls into a coma, and wakes up twenty years later and sees the changes happening on Earth all around him. Prior to his slipping into this coma he thinks he sees an alien force or being causing the catastrophe.

As an astronaut his projects were all about "off Earth" living, but after his coma he sees that surface dwelling capabilities have exploded, religiousosity is a new, overwhelming fad, and there have been great leaps forwad made in ensuring contentment in old age as well as longer living. It is only becasue he has as an alternate perspective due to his coma that he begins to see that all of these advancements are a product of the alien entity and he surmises that the alien is harvesting human souls for food. (How the hero discovers that Aliens perfer the taste of old souls in a manner similar to human's like kobe beef is still a bit of a problem in my outline.)

The original title was Soul Ranch. Soul Food is more tongue in cheek but far more catchy. Could be a comedy in the vein of Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, but sadly I have no comedy writing experience. It's a pretty nebulous topic for a novel. Hard to write believably. Plus, what would the ending be?

Theree are many fun themes like religion keeping the herd docile, the ability to increase population in a manner similar to a cattle ranch being taken over by new ownership and turned around. All fun, but tough stuff to get across easily.

Needless to say, this idea goes back in the cellar for more aging. Not suitable for NaNoWriMo 2010.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Answers to Past Questions

The last couple of years I wrote alot about the state of the publishing industry and how they would move and react to the growth of e-books. An article forwarded to me from a rather pedestrian associate of mine (here), kinda describes some of the machinations that we will most likely see from publishing houses in the very near future.

In her article New Service for Authors Seeking to Self-Publish E-Books, Julie Bosman writes:

"Bloomsbury, a publisher based in Britain, said on Wednesday it had created a new publishing arm that would release digital-only titles. Companies like Open Road Integrated Media have successfully published digital editions of backlist books whose rights were not held by a publisher."

This is a move that's similar to what you might find in Smashwords or other smaller e-book publishers. But they take it a step further by adding this:

"The new Perseus unit, called Argo Navis Author Services, will be available only to authors who are represented by an agency that has signed an agreement with Perseus. David Steinberger, the president and chief executive of the Perseus Books Group, said that the company had made an agreement with one major literary agency: Janklow & Nesbit Associates, whose authors include Ann Beattie, Anne Rice and Diane Johnson. Curtis Brown Ltd., which represents Karen Armstrong and Jim Collins, is also close to signing an agreement to make Argo Navis available to their authors. Perseus is in discussions with more than a dozen other agencies."

Savvy move. It will produce a whole new industry, the e-publishing industry. Remainders will be a thing of the past in the e-world, as they'll just be re-released in e-format. For a non-author like myself its certainly not a game changer, but it does provide a model for what we will see more of in the future.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Have We Really Sunk This Far?

I wouldn’t be surprised if I lost all of my followers (or with such a limited number should I say “each” or “both” or worst of all “the”) but have we really come to a point in this blog where it’s nothing better than a “Word a Day Calendar?”

Yes.

But, we can insulate the poster from the blame. Instead we should blame the new VP of Finance at my company. The other day he was talking about how he and his wife were watching television and had a hard time choosing between the shows Bridezillas and Say Yes to the Dress. “So we did what we had to do and we bifurcated between the two of them.”

I would not hesitate to say that at no time in human history has the word “bifurcate” (to divide into two branches or parts) been used in the same sentence with either Bridezillas or Say Yes to the Dress. In homage to this daring usage, I felt compelled to turn make this blog a vocabulary lesson for the day.

I also just ran across “neologism”( a new word, usage, or expression or a meaningless word coined by a psychotic) in an article I was reading. I plan to drop that sucker on our VP at the next meeting and see what the reaction is. It, as much as bifurcate is a perfectly cromulent word and would only serve to embiggen even the smallest man.

Monday, October 3, 2011

The Future

Ah, the future that all NaNo'ers hope for, to have your NaNo entry make it to the bestseller list (here)

The problem? I agree with the author, I gag violently as well whenever something is compared favorably against Harry Potter.

My friend Bill hates potter and I'm almost at the point of agreeing with him. I could defend the first few books. They were shallow and easy, just the thing to help introduce kids to writing. However the longer the series went on, and the more seriuosly Rowling took herself, the worse the writing. I was hardly able to finish the last book.

Add to that that the only fantasy I'll even consider touching now is George R.R. Martin, and you can be pretty sure I shant be reading this particular NaNo bestseller.

Still, good to see it can be done. Provides hope for we non-pubslished folk.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Yet Another Reason to Hurry the Hell Up with my Edit

So, I'm just out of the valley of despair that came with no longer reading and trying to get my editing done on my current novel, On Edge. However, I've discovered another wrinkle to this strict diet of no novel reading.

I began working on my outline for the upcoming NaNo and realized that I need to read a 3rd Person POV Thriller to get in the groove. All this time I've been reading 1st Person POV mysteries for On Edge, but because this new novel is in 3rd, I need to hurry up and finish so I can get some reading in, get in the right frame of mind, for NaNo in November.

I know it may not be the most kosher act, reading others books in order to ensure I have an appropriate frame of mind. Kinda works counter to finding ones own voice and all that. But I find it helps me de-clutter my mind and slip into the right focus if I read some novels similar to what I'd want to write.

As that is the case, you'll excuse me while I go whip this book out.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Wow Kindle, Now We Can Confirm You Are 3 Years Behind the Power Curve

Yes I love my Kindle, but I'll be the first to admit that I love it for reasons that are peculiar. I am like the alcoholic who must pour all the alcohol in his house down the sink or he'll use it too much. I'm the weirdo who stored his almost too heavy to lug around TV in the back closet of his apartment so it would be a chore to get out, all in the name of not wanting to watch TV.

So I love the fact that my Kindle is an eReader. It's not a PC, it's not an app device, its not a camera, or a cell phone or anything else. I use that sucker for reading. When I have it in my hands it's for reading and even if I wanted to do something else, I couldn't.

Now we see from this article (here) that it wasn't for those reasons that Kindle didn't become an iPad, it's just that they weren't quite up to the task. Now they've gone and created a whole range of Kindles, some that are knockoff Nooks, some that are Kindles with touchscreen, some just Kindles with no keypad.

I just wish that they'd make these damn Kindles more updateable. It's like my first gen shuffle. Kinda looks sad next to my 5th gen one.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Out of the Valley, but . . .

Well, I'm out of the valley of despair (here) but I'd forgotten what comes after the valley . . . an uphill climb.

I've gotten use to not reading as much. It's been tough, particularly at night and before I go to bed. It's boring just listening to podcasts. I'd much rather be reading.

But, having broken the habit, I'm now hitting the writing hard. For the most part I am actually writing more. The proof will be whether or not I complete my next two chapters by Friday. That's the deadline. I should be done in the next four weeks, following that, onto NaNo.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Uh Oh, A Segue into the Comics

Oh wow!

I had a great post in mind for today, a new post about a potental NaNo novel. I really like writing those posts to, I like dreaming about new story ideas.

I threw it out when I read this blog post (here) by Julian Sanchez. I found the link on a conservative leaning website, but the fact that I'm a recovering comic book weenie ensured that it caught my eye.

What do many of the wealthy heroes like Bruce Wayne, Tony Stark and others have in common? They inherited their position and wealth. What commonality do Lex Luthor, the Kingpin and others of their ilk enjoy ? They are self-made men (or self-made mad men and villains).

It's an interesting thought line. In many cases, other than the ones listed in the article, the hero is striving to become more, starting with nothing, and aspring for greatness; think Peter Parker, Steve Rogers, et al. Now, we see that many of these same colorful heroic individuals are just as likely to lean on inherited wealth, Wayne, and some could argue, particularly in Roger's case, governement largesse.

An interesting concept for further focus.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Unlikely Place for a Great Analogy

The last few days have been all about great analogies. I just read a spectacular, eye-catching analogy in the Opinion pages of the Wall Street Journal from Daniel Henninger's Obama's Tax Morass column (here). Usually I'll do a double take when I read the WSJ Opinion page when they mention a huge sum of money on spending, or the state of the government's deficit. This one came across differently.

"Barack Obama has a remarkable habit of dumping the responsibility for solving massive fiscal and political problems on someone else. After Congress shoveled its way through his original stimulus proposal in 2009, it spent a year erecting a Rube Goldberg apparatus around health care. What emerged from these great off-loadings of work was an even grander mess. The $825 billion stimulus did little for unemployment but jacked up the deficit. ObamaCare is now rumbling toward a terrified health-care industry like Godzilla bouncing off buildings on Main Street."

Thursday, September 22, 2011

The Valley of Despair

One of the characteristics of process changes that my co-worker likes to mention is the "valley of despair." She claims that it is the natural decline in enthusiasm, productivity and adoption that comes after rolling out a new feature, application, or piece of software, but just before those aspects take off. A small, depressing, dip that if not for the new process change, wouldn't be there.

I'm in my own valley of despair. I've sworn off all reading until I finish tightening up my second novel. My goal is to have it finished before this year's NaNo. NaNo, as you faithful blog reader know, is in November. I have one month. I don't know if I'm going to make it.

When I saw the looming deadline I knew I had to do something drastic. What is more drastic in my life than taking away books. Let's hope my valley of despair is short lived and the uptick occurs soon.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

One of My Favorite Sites

One of my very favorite sites for books is the Literature Map (here). For anyone who has not seen this site who likes to read, this is a treasure.

Type in the name of your favorite author and it will automatically tell you other authors similar in style, scope and subject matter. I use it often. So should you.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Along Those Same Lines

As we're discussing analogies, I ran into a couple today.

While reading Jay Nordlinger, I ran across a gem that he quotes:

"A comment by Terry Wogan, in the Daily Telegraph. If the Warren Buffetts of the world want to pay more to their governments, fine, he said. But “in the context of our economy, and the huge American one, the effect will be as a duck farting in thunder.”"

Never heard that before.

While reading a book review on WSJ by Christopher Carothers, I read his quote from David Wise's new book, Tiger Trap.

"Mr. Wise is at his most interesting in passages like that, which help to show how espionage itself is changing at the same time as the main protagonists in the spy wars. In this respect, the Chinese appear to bring a fresh approach. As Mr. Wise writes, "If a beach were an espionage target, the Russians would send in a sub, frogmen would steal ashore in the dark of night and with great secrecy collect several buckets of sand and take them back to Moscow. The U.S. would target the beach with satellites and produce reams of data. The Chinese would send in a thousand tourists, each assigned to collect a single grain of sand. When they returned, they would be asked to shake out their towels. And they would end up knowing more about the sand than anyone else."

Finally, Peter Spiegelman writes a review in the WSJ of Tom Nolan's book Thick as Thieves (which I really, really want to read prior to the next NaNo) and writes the following:

"Whatever the locale, Mr. Spiegelman describes things with flair. Of a rich man's showy courtyard, he notes: "There's a fountain in the center, marble, pale pink, like the inside of a baby's ear." He reports Carr, three beers into an evening, as experiencing "a pleasant foaminess somewhere around his forebrain" and says Carr's melancholy relationships with women have "the feel of a beach in midwinter."

Friday, September 16, 2011

Spectacular Analogies

Blogger Bill Gross has a list of terrific analogies (here) that are definintly worth a read.

My favorite?

"The hailstones leaped from the pavement, just like maggots when you fry
them in hot grease."

There are many others just as good.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Despite the Insipidity of the Questions . . .

Now, I think this question is somewhat insipid, and does a disservice to Journal readers and to this column (here). But it makes me wonder if A) Cynthia Crossen dumbed down the question in order to make a point or B) Miss Crossen doesn't get many questions and the pickings are slim.

Irregardless (a word I love to use if only cause so many find it irksome) my answer would have been, "Get a Kindle."

I know, I know, the Nook is color, the Ipad is sleeker and can do more, but those both prove my point. My Kindle forces me to read when I pick that sucker up. I can't go surf the web as I would on and Ipad (well, I can, but it's a miserable experience on the Kindle). I can't go check out the People Magazine or be diverted by color pictures in periodicals as I would on a Nook (I find Nook users are far bigger subscribers to online mags). Kindle's are all about reading. It's always charged and ready, it syncs to my phone so it's always up to date, and it's convenient. I've read more since I bought that sucker than ever before.

It's almost detrimental to other areas of my life.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Most Recent First Line - Among the Truthers has Among the Best First Line

“At 9:40 on the morning of November 1, 1755, Portugal was rocked by the most deadly earthquake in recorded history of Europe. In Lisbon alone, more than thirty thousand people perished. Many victims were entombed in their churches, which collapsed around them as the celebrated All Saints.”

“The scene that emerged when the earth stopped shaking was one of Last Days. A tsunami swallowed the city’s harbor killing many of the survivors who’d assembled on the shore. A fire at the Royal Hospital roasted hundreds of patients alive. Gallows sprouted up on the city’s hilltops, from which were hanged the desperate looters trying to survive amidst the ruins.”

Among the Truthers by Jonathon Kay

I know that this is a lot more than just the first line, but in truth this set of posts has evolved beyond just the first line. That being said, the first line, much less the rest of the two paragraphs, is incredibly compelling and certainly makes me want to read on. Better stuff than some thrillers I’ve read.

Monday, September 12, 2011

No Wonder I'm Not Published!

An indispensable friend of mine sent me an article on what it takes to be published (here). The article Want to Be a Great Writer? Follow These Three Steps, by Harlan Coben is pretty much run of the mill stuff till you get to point three.

Point one, be inspired. Got that in spades. Seen my NaNo ideas?

Point two, go write. This one I don't always have. My writing time depends on my kiddos, their moods, and how much travel I have to do that month for work. More travel, more writing. Airports I've found are marvelous motivators.

Point three, panic. This is where I fail.

One of my favorite short story writers, Patrick McManus, wrote about how he did a "modified stationary panic" when a rabbit scared him in the brush. He described this state by contrasting it to the "full blown pin-ball panic" that occurred when a bear reared up in front of him. He claimed the "full blown pin-ball panic" only stopped when he rebounded off a tree across the next state line. Sadly, I don't have this particular quality.

I came close to panicking once in the military, but I stopped myself when I realized there were too many other things to do. In the military I was at different times a team leader, an EMT, an RTO then a squad leader. None of these things necessarily allow for panicky individuals. I never panic. I get mad a lot, have even been known to freeze up (which I can't imagine would help with my writing) but I never panic. Coben says panicking is key in that it creates, in short, a desire to finish. Mayhaps that's why I have so many unfinished novels on my shelf.

Friday, September 9, 2011

NaNo Idea Number 2

Leveraging my military experience and my desire to write a thriller, my brother wanted me to write a novel depicting two Special Forces units involved in hostilities in "the Ghan." I believe that some of this idea came about as my brother was watching a show that showed a Spec Ops unit all hepped up on adrenaline refusing to be called off from the objective. The idea would be to have the two units involved in a long range fire fight neither of them knowing that they are actually shooting at one another. Each unit could call in air strikes on the other and continue to escalate the battle without ever realizing who the enemy is. It was my addition to have a native, enemy, unit watching the battle and instigating action when they see it starting to lull.

Some of the themes that might be fun to play with include out running the lines of communication in battle, a la Pat Tillman, the intransigency and stubbornness of Spec Ops operators in regards to mission completion, and the splintered chain of command in the Spec Ops community. This last has always been a bone of contention with me.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Coming Up on Nano, Wonder What I'll Do This Year

For those not NaNoWriMo literate let me explain the title. I have several ideas for books I want to write during this years, National Novel Writing Month. Now that it is a month and a half away I have to decide on one. If you see one you like, let me know.

Soul Food
I've been wanting to write Soul Food for years. It is a Sci-Fi story about an astronaut who bungles a mission in space, falls into a coma, and wakes up twenty years later and sees the changes happening on Earth all around him. Prior to his slipping into this coma he thinks he sees an alien force or being causing the catastrophe.

As an astronaut his projects were all about "off Earth" living, but after his coma he sees that surface dwelling capabilities have exploded, that religiousosity is a new, overwhelming fad, and that there have been great leaps forwad made in ensuring contentment in old age as well as longer living. It is only becasue he has as an alternate perspective due to his coma that he begins to see that all of these advancements are a product of the alien entity and he surmises that the alien is harvesting human souls for food. How the hero discovers that Aliens perfer the taste of old souls in a manner similar to human's like corn fed beef is still a bit of a mystery.

The original title was Soul Ranch. Soul Food is more tongue in cheek but far more catchy. Could be a comedy in the vein of Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, but sadly I have no comedy writing experience. It's a pretty nebulous topic for a novel. Hard to write believably. Plus, what would the ending be?

Would have been fun to explore themes like religiosity keeping the herd docile, the ability to increase population in a manner similar to a cattle ranch being taken over by new ownership and turned around. All fun, but tough stuff to get across easily.

Needless to say, this idea goes back in the cellar for more aging. Not suitable for NaNoWriMo 2010.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Another From the Word Wiz

This one I can't quite figure out. I think it's just miss-hearing the pronounciation, but it could be that my five year old is conjugating the verb "to swim" when he sees what's floating in the lake by our house.

"Hey Dad, there are the Swams."

Again, I think I'm giving him more credit than he is due to think that he thinks there called swams cause the past-participle of their main task is swam.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

First Line I'm Reading Now

"I was born in the Year 1632, in the City of York, of a good Family, tho' not of that Country, my Father being a Foreigner of Bremen, who settled first at Hull; He got a good Estate by Merchandise, and leaving off his Trade, lived afterward atYork, from whence he had married my Mother, whose Relations were named Robinson, a very good Family in that Country, and from whom I was called Robinson Kreutznaer; but by the usual Corruption of Words in England, we are now called, nay we call our selves, and write our Name Crusoe, and so my Companions always call'd me."

It's clear from this first line that it's going to be a slog to get through the book, a fun, adventurous and most likely quite rewarding slog.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Author Websites

A while back I started to hash out a website. Agents like to see that you've atleast put some thought into marketing, or so I've heard. Ergo I snatched a website with my name, through some content together and started building. Based on this website I read the other day (here) I've still got a long way to go.

First, I need to add links to my favorite authors and books. That might prove difficult. One thing I also wanted to do was to incorporate an app that would show what I've been reading lately. Sounds awesome. Haven't made it work yet. On my to-do list.

Second, regular updates is a bit weak for my site. What do I update? I haven't done much yet. I mean, sure I could say some things, but would anyone really care? Isn't that why I have a blog? I'll continue to mull over this one.

Finally, feeds? What the heck are they? How do I incorporate them. Most of what I see on twitter is inane. What the heck. Definitely need some more research into this point.

All in all a great 12 point website review. Well worth the read.

Book Review: The Profession

I just finished reading The Profession. I found that it was a phenomenal book in many ways. It was phenomenally gripping yet phenomenally minimalist. I like Pressfield’s novels. I read Gates of Fire while on guard in Oregon during one deployment. I read The Afghan Campaign at the behest of my friend Wheeler who said that it was almost an exact depiction of what he had to deal with when he was deployed there. The Profession is a break from these historical fiction accounts of battles and wars.

I liked The Profession firstly because it deals with a time frame that I think is little utilized. Like Stephenson’s Snowcrash (also a mind blower) it deals with the near-future, the 2030’s. A world where mercenary armies become the reigning power in the Middle East. The run up to that take over is incredibly powerful. In fact I will say that for raw military descriptions that shape new thoughts and imagery, the only book that is better is The Devil’s Brigade.

What didn’t impress me? The writing was minimalist at best. Conversations are one sentence, two sentence then done. It makes Hemingway look verbose and loquacious. There were times that I wanted him to take a bit more time. The pacing is like a roller coaster that never stops or takes a pause. I also felt that he could have ended the book halfway through and I would have been perfectly happy. He delves into politics by the end of the book and it’s a bit of a yawn compared to the first few sections of the book.

The best part about the book was that he looped around to include the prologue in the ending. It seemed perfectly natural and understandable.

Some of my favorite lines are below.

At one point the story takes the hero to a memory of a battle in Africa. I didn’t find much about this description of the local militia until the simile at the end.

They went from friendly to lethal in two seconds with no visible sign or warning. They were as nodded out as junkies and as murderous as a riverful of piranha.

He continues to describe the culture in Africa, after the battle has been won, and their Marine commanding officer is in charge:

In East Africa, no public act can be taken in the capital without report of it flying on wings to every village and crossroads of the interior. A wise judgment is commended. Two in a row are acclaimed. Three and they’re writing songs about you.

I think the description of the commanding officer is interesting, again the end is the best part:

But when I’d run into Salter in the field – by 2024 I was working these merc gigs myself – he looked lean and hard and even more charismatic as a privateer than he had been as a USMC three-star. He was a man on a mission, Chutes said once, though none of us could say exactly what the mission was. Salter moved like a deposed heavyweight champ, who trains and trains in his private camp in the mountains, waiting for a return shot at the title, which he knows will come again and which, this time, he’ll be ready for.

Pressfield describes a terrific interchange between a mercenary and the protagonist before a battle:

Coombs says he’d rather be in Afghanistan, which at least possesses aesthetic integrity, if only of impoverishment. “Look down there. That’s not third world, it’s fourth!” Our ex-SAS captain declares that he despises all isms, “ideologies that are based on some lunatic intellectual concept like the perfectibility of man or the efficiency of free markets. Give me a bleedin’ break. This is what it comes to. Look at this place!”
I love a guy who knows how to bitch. Any moron can gripe about chow or rotations, but someone who can get exercised over architecture is my kind of dude.

All in all a great book with a lot to recommend about it. A bit rushed, could use some more polish, but whose book couldn’t.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Another from the Word Wiz

Growing up one of my favorite words that a youngster created was a substitute for the television remote control. What we called "The Channeler" became "The Flipper-Bipper" once we heard my cousins use that term.

In that same vein, my son came up with a new word for spatula while we were making french toast this morning.

"Dad! Where's the flipper-flopper?"

You can't beat that. I knew exactly what he meant.

Friday, August 26, 2011

I Give Up

I give up on Book Clubs.

I've been in two formal book clubs in my life. One was with a bunch of fellows. I think we were looking for a way to get together and drink during the spring, when there were no football games to watch. It didn't go well. Our first book was promoted by an MFA graduate, the Corrections by Jonathan Franzen. Sorry, I didn't like it. When I got to the point where the father is playing with his own poop on the ship I stopped. Our discussion of it was just about as insightful and invigorating as that part of the book. The second book that the club was going to read was the shank in the already failing heart of the group. It was a text book on the workings of the brain. No one read it. Not even the guy who recommended it. I don't think we made it to a third meeting.

My second book club pittled out even faster. I read the one book that the other person promoted. When it came time for me to suggest a book, my partner rejected it out of hand. Now, they're waiting around for the next book. Sorry, book clubbers, this is not a buffet where we get to pick and choose. Book club, finis.

Dick's attendance in future book clubs also finis.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

NaNo Rules and Regulations

Someone asked me what the rules are behind the NaNoWriMo. Do contestants have to write everything in that one month? What if you do any brainstorming before hand? How do you verify? Who oversees and audits the entries and approves them?

All good questions. Before I attempt to answer, let me state that the governing and creating body of the event is located in San Francisco and is called "The Office of Light and Letters". With a name like that, based out of city like SF, you have to know that the answers are going to be pretty weak, and extrememly pliable.

Yep, everything has to be written in one month. What do you win? Nothing. You get a little "winner" button on your NaNo webpage. Brainstorming before hand? Acceptable. Writing before hand? Outlining is fine, but no actual writing. No one oversees or audits.

Yes, it's a goofy event and it's shouldn't really be called a contest. But, it does work. Each year I do more writing during November than any other month. Even the novels which I think are junk, I usually go back and find something redeeming. So, is it worthwhile? Yep. Is it serious? Not really.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

New Word from the Word Wiz

So my son has started kindergarten. I can only assume that he was discussing natural disasters during his second day in class (which to me seems an odd curriculum) as he came home and asked me what a "Vurricano" was.

Apparetnly, from the answer I got from him while trying to determine exactly what he was asking a "Vurricano" is a combination of Volcano, Hurricane and Tornado. Someone get Hollywood on the horn. To hell with Twister II, Vurricano HAS to be made.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Noticable, but Hardly Impactable

One of the odd things I noticed about my Kindle when I first got it was that it used "locations" instead of page numbers for books. Based on Amazon's arguments, due to the changing of text sizes and other particulars, it was difficult to use page numbers for e-books. Strangely, Apple's iPad did not have this problem.

I worked on it for a while, tried to see it from Amazon's view, but I was never able to wrap my head around this particular, rather inelegant solution. Not only that I was never able to get a handle on the location values. Were they based on paragraphs? Lines? Words? None of the above as far as I could tell. I'm not a stupid fellow, but this was beyond me.

The book I'm reading now, Stephen Pressfield's new novel, The Profession, uses page numbers not locations. Is it a big switch? No. Did I read more than a third of the book before I noticed? Yes. Am I happy they gave up on the stupidity of "locations" hell yeah.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Broken Laces

I might just read this book next.

Last year, I met a fellow over lunch at the Fort Bend Writer's Guild Writer's Conference who talked about his newest book. I think at that time I was branching out in my reading and was in the middle of The Last Song by Nicholas Sparks. This was serendipidous as this fellow, I'll call him Rodney since that is his name, likened his writing to that of Nicolas Sparks.

For the most part we hit it off as luncheon companions. He was talkative enough, I was as well. Well, the other day, in the Sugar Land Magazine I saw a local writer highlighted. If you've been paying attention to the intro of this blog post you will have guessed that the local highlighted author was none other than Rodney Walther.

I look forward to buying and reading Broken Laces (http://www.rodneywalther.com/). Stay tuned to the blog for the upcoming review.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

It's an Incredibly Exciting Book, Despite the First Line

I don't know what I expect, but this doesn't pull me in. Thankfully, the rest of the story does, . . . and quickly.

"My most ancient memory is of a battlefield. I don't know where. Asia maybe. North Africa. A plain between the hills and the sea."

What's worse? It has nothing to do with the rest of the story. I feel a bit used because of it.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Prepping for Nano

I'm preparing for my sixth NaNowWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) this November and I have to say that I've seen a decided pattern regarding the complexity of my characters. Looking over the past few tries, the complexity of both the characters and the story itself has not necessarily evolved. It has less to do with which year I wrote it in, one would expect the more I do it the better I get at it. Instead, it has far more to do with how much I edit the novel. For example, my last nano had extremely shallow characters, at least as shallow as the characters in my second nano. But I'm on my third (maybe fourth) edit of my second nanowrimo effort and the characters are becoming far more complex . . . so complex that I actually think it might be too much for the reader to take in all at once. I think I've added too many threads to the tapestry. It's going to make my next NaNoWriMo interesting. I can disregard trying to be complex and just focus on the broad strokes of the story. More on the story I plan on writing later.

Book Review - Confederacy of Dunces

Due to the prodding of my friend (I use the term quite loosely, mayhaps I should say associate), I just read and finished Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole. My immeidate impression? Loved it. Could have been better, but there were features and passages that I thought were spectacular. One aspect that tickles my funny bone is the secretary at the pants company, the secretary Trixi, continually calls Ignatius, the main character, Gloria. For some reason I find this to be the funniset part of the whole book.

While working at the pants factory, Ignatius, who prides himself on being something of a political organizer, foments a rebellion among the workers which quickly piddles out. Reading about his erzatz rebellion was worth the price of admission.

Finally, Toole does something that I've always been impressed by, but really should be. I've always loved the way writers will take seemingly disparate characters and pull them together at the end of the story in a cohesive way. The film Crash is a terrific example of this. My dream? To do this myself. Kinda setting my sights low, eh?

Some of the passages I enjoyed are listed below:

Miss Trixie drifted off toward the ladies room as if she were tacking into a gale. Miss Trixie was never perfectly vertical; she and the floor always met at an angle of less than ninety degrees.


When Ignatius takes a turn at being a Lucky Dog vendor the following takes place:

"May I select my own?" Ignatius asked, peering down over the top of the pot. In the boiling water swished and lashed like artificially colored and magnified paramecia. Ignatius filled his lungs with the pungent aroma. "I shall pretend that I am in a smart restaurant and that this is the lobster pond."
Then after he eats a couple of hot dogs, Ignatius says to the vendor something that I think is the most preceint line that sums him up.

"I am afraid that they will all have to be on the house. Or on the garage or whatever it is. My Miss Marple of a mother discovered a number of theater ticket stubs in my pockets last night and has given me only carfare today."


Ignatius describes a boy who tries to buy a hotdog from him as:


Ignatius looked sternly at the young boy who had placed himself in the wagon's path. His valve protested against the pimples, the surly face that seemed to hang from the long well-lubricated hair, the cigarette behind the ear, the aquamarine jacket, the delicate boots, the tight trousers that bulged offensively in the crotch in violation of all rules of theology and geometry.


Later in the book that same young man describes Ignatius for the reader from his own POV:

You could tell by the way that he talked, though, that he had gone to school a long time. That was probably what was wrong with him. George had been wise enough to get out school as soon as possible. He didn't want to end up like that guy.


Finally, I love this description. If I don't use it in my daily life in the near future I'll be upset with myself:

Please blow your smoke elswhere. My respiratory system, unfortunately, is below par. I suspect that I am the result of particularly weak conception on the part of my father. His sperm probably emitted in a rather offhand manner."

All in all I loved the book and I'm sorry to say that. I've been planning on reading it for years. I wish I had sooner. Reminded me a lot of a New Orleans Douglas Adams with a less celestial subject matter.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Not Particularly Compelling First Line

I think its interesting that when I go to these writing workshops, some fella they've hired to speak always says that one of the first rules of opening a novel is not to describe the character. Inevitably, a facet of each "great" book I read is that the author describes the main character. In this case, Confederacy of Dunces, Ignatius is described in the first line then the rest of the paragraph, as follows:

"A green hunting cap squeezed the top of the fleshy balloon of a head."

"The green earflaps, full of large ears and uncut hair and the fine bristles that grew in the ears themselves, stuck out on either side like signals indicating two directions at once. Full, pursed lips protruded beneath the bushy black moustache and, at their corners, sank into little folds filled with disapproval and potato chip crumbs. In the shadow under the green visor of the cap Ignatius J. Reilly's supercilious blue and yellow eyes looked down upon the other people waiting under the clock at the D. H. Holmes department store, studying the crowd of people for signs of bad taste in dress. Several of teh outfits, Ignatius noticed, were new enough and expensive enough to be properly considered offenses against taste and decency. Possession of anything new or expensive only reflected a persons lack of theology and geometry; it could even cast doubts upon ones soul."

Book Review Dance with Dragons

I finished A Dance with Dragons, fifth in the Song of Ice and Fury series by George R.R. Martin.

Like most of his books in the series, it was a long slog. He writes extremely long, extremely compelling books and this was no different than the rest in that respect. He moved the major story line forward, he created some incredibly moving second or minor story lines, and threw some open ended issues into the mix to keep the reader hungry for the next installment.

That being said, there were some things I didn't like. I didn't like some of the minor characters that were involved in the story. In some cases it seemed like he was adding them just to take up space. I didn't like the constant allusions to Blood and Fire (see my previous posts for more) it seemed like in some cases he was just mailing it in.

What's worse? I didn't highlight a single passage or vocabulary word. Unlike Barry Eisler's books where I find myself highlight every third paragraph, there wasn't a single word or passage I felt needed to be remembered. Not a good showing in that regard.

Nevertheless, it was as good as the others and added to the overall story well. I look forward to the next book in the series, which if he holds true to form won't be out till 2020 or so. By then I should have been able to reread books one through 4 again though.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Now I Know I'm Being to Persnickety

I no longer know if I'm being too judgmental, or if I'm expecting too much from Martin.

One aspect of writing that I've heard is very hard is the ability to describe scene and setting from different character's points of view. For the most part Martin does this well. His books are built on multiple POV's. From Jaime, to Tyrion, to Jon and on and on and on. Each chapter is a different character's tale told from their viewpoint to make a larger tapestry. The past few posts have been about how confused I am by different characters have been using the same turns of phrase.

It happened again. One of the best transitions Martin has made in this story is when he tells Theon Greyjoy's story. Theon is in a horrible situation, slowly being flayed alive, being abused and tortured, and generally dying slowly at the hands of Ramsay Bolton. When I read Theon's chapters I feel depressed and downtrodden along with him. The things he sees and describes are directly related to his feeling and what he's experiencing.

Well, I got to Jaime's chapter (the first in this book) and stopped at one line of description. I stopped cause I realized that the character that Martin had developed would never describe something the way that Jaime describes it. He's looking at a tree's root system and compare it to veins on a crones legs. Sorry, not buying it.

There are many other characters who I believe would use this turn of phrase to describe the tree, but the wandering, somewhat vanquished, devil-may-care Jaime? Sorry.

Just one more to pile upon the heap. I'm looking forward to rereading the series next year to see if I have the same impression or if this is just this book.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Am I Becoming a Persnickety Old Coot? Or is There Something I’m Missing

To begin, I love the book I’m reading, and to a certain degree my friend Nate gave me a bit more info and a stronger defense regarding the “Fire an Blood” formulation, but do I have a better argument now that several different characters across different story lines are using an analogy that involves a pale horse?

Firstly, any Christian or Johnny Cash fan will get the reference to a pale horse, but it does beg the question that can a fantasy world with no Christians also have the same reference to death on a pale horse? I mean I get why Agatha Christie’s Pale Horse novel referenced this equine liturgical analogy, but can a Dragon Queen from Westeros living in Mereen think the same thing when she uses the reference?

Beyond that, should I now think that Jon at the wall who uses the analogy and Melisandre and Bran and Dany all see the same vision and that it shouldn’t be linked in some way. I can understand that Martin might be trying to show some interconnectivity, but why use a Christian verse to do it. Sloppy writing or sloppy reading?

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

It takes a village . . .

It might take a village, but in this case it takes a Nate. Nate commented on my “blood and fire” rant (read it again today, that makes seven), but still it doesn’t dismiss the problem. I still say it’s too often and is a sign of poor editing/writing.

I’ve just gotten to a point where “The Bastard of Bolton” (what a great name) and his father are using their hostage for their own Machiavellian political means. This is my favorite part of all the books in this series. It’s like reading the fourth Season of the wire. There are so many political mechanizations, so many political maneuverings, so many twists and turns. It’s really the best part of the books. In the first book it was Cersie and her father who were the impetus behind these twists. Book two centered around the Freys. Books three and four belonged to Tywin Lannister and Aerys. I see a lot developing between the Boltons and the Manderly’s in this book. It’s a refreshing change. Reminiscent of the first time I read the Count of Monte Cristo.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Ugh - Heavy Handed or Bad Writing

I'm reading Dance with Dragons the fifth book by George R.R. Martin's series. I don't remember him being this heavy-handed before. I've read at least five instances where different characters at different times have used the words "Blood and Fire." Not either/or, but that phrase. It's a bit much.

If you're trying to tell me something, I got it. Good foreshadowing. If you're not then it's just bad writing and even worse editing. I get it that the book is a monster, but seriously, knock it off.

Otherwise it is highly recommended by this wanna be author.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Story from an Unlikely Source

The title alludes to the fact that I've never before linked a National Review article in this blog. I may read National Review, but rarely do they have an article that corresponds to the subject matter commonly covered here.

The article by Rich Lowry begins:
"You have to have a heart of stone not to feel a pang of sadness at the passing of the bookstore Borders. The retailer is liquidating its 399 remaining outlets and letting go nearly 11,000 employees. Gone will be the era when no shopping-mall parking lot in America seemed complete without an adjoining Borders, offering up its capacious aisles to browse for books you had no idea you needed."

A good pull at the heartstrings, and true to a point, but the most relevant section is this:
"Then it didn’t recognize quickly enough the new ways of delivering them. It had to rely on Amazon to sell its books online, a boost to the online retailer that would do so much to make the Borders model obsolete. It branched out into sales of CDs and DVDs, an initially profitable move that backfired when the music industry went digital. It missed out on e-books. Locked into leases at uneconomical locations, its voluminous real estate began to weigh it down. Barnes & Noble, in contrast, developed a website to sell its books online itself and marketed its own e-book reader, the Nook. It secured a prized partnership with Starbucks for the coffee at its caf├ęs. It lost $59 million last quarter, but it’s still standing."

Makes you wonder how much longer Barnes and Noble will be around. Personally I think it will still be around, but as I've argued here before, they will have to refine and redevelop their offering. More cafe space, fewer aisles? More kids toys, study furniture, pens and office wares perhaps.

Will be fun to see from this perspective. Terrifying if you work for Barnes and Noble.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Sadly Inevitable

Borders will be the first major casualty in the e-reader wars. I didn't think it was all that big an event till I saw this map (here). This helped me understand the true and large impact that this will have. The map shows just how pervasive the store had become.

I heard a radio story about this the other day wherein a professor was interviewed. His take was that it would hurt rural America the most. He felt that folks outside of large urban areas came in and used these large, mega bookstores to shop and see the books available. Immediately I "poo-pooed" his thoughts. The map has me thinking different.

I liked Borders, but I told someone the other day, as he was running to the bookstore to buy the latest George R.R. Martin book, that I can't remember the last time I bought a book at either Borders or Barnes and Noble. I buy all my books through Amazon or Half-Price Books.

These two lose a cash stream like mine, they're bound to fail!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Book Review - Twelve Sharp

I just finished Twelve Sharp by Janet Evanovich. Anyone who knows me or who has read this blog will know that I enjoy Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum series if only cause they are light-hearted, fast, easy, and fun to read. Evanovich has successfully created a world of clever characters who are consistently and constantly pulled into somewhat believable and intrigueing mysteries. The story is fast paced, and the characters are fun to read about. Whenever I read one of these books I always imagine it as a movie and it turns out to be a really good movie. My favorite character is not the paramilitary love interest, but the huge, African American side kick. Whenever Lula is involved in a scene I find myself paying attention more if only because if you read to fast you’ll gloss over some of her quips or one liners. All in all, no great vocab, no great lines, but one great book and a terrific series, even if its read out of order.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Martin's First Line

“The night was rank with the smell of man.”
George R.R. Martin – Dance with Dragons

Not a bad first line, particularly if you’re a reader who has read the first four books, which I am. But, it gets more intriguing as the paragraph continues.

“The warg stopped beneath a tree and sniffed, his grey-brown fur dappled by shadow. A sigh of piney wind brought the man-scent to him, over fainter smells that spoke of fox and hare, seal and stag, even wolf. Those were man-smells too, the warg knew; the stink of old skins, dead and sour, near drowned beneath the stronger scents of smoke and blood and rot. Only man stripped the skins from other beasts and wore their hides and hair.”

Now, I won’t pretend I’m not a fan of Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire series, but one thing I like above all else, and in this I’m speaking as someone who once wrote a short story from the perspective of a dog, Martin does a fabulous job of taking himself and his characters, including the animals, seriously. Part of this may be that many of the animals he uses as characters are actually other characters inhabiting them, warg-like. Nevertheless, I’m not a huge fantasy writing fan, but I am an incredibly devout fan of Martin’s. Going to be a while before I pick up another book. Dance with Dragons is long and I intend to read it to enjoy it.