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.