Thursday, December 19, 2013

Not Shifting My Views



Donald felt his temperature rise. This was not the conversation he wanted to have with this woman. He wasn’t prepared. He cupped his hand over the microphone, could sense that he was both running out of time and losing her. 

‘Be careful,’ he said. ‘That’s all I’m saying—’ 

‘Listen to me,’ she told him. ‘I’m sitting over here in a roomful of truth. I’ve seen the books. I’m going to dig until I get to the heart of what you people have done.’ 

Donald could hear her breathing. 

‘I know the truth you’re looking for,’ he said quietly. 

‘You may not like what you find.’ 

‘You may not like what I find, you mean.’ 

‘Just … be careful.’ Donald lowered his voice. ‘Be careful where you go digging.’ 

There was a pause. Donald glanced over his shoulder at the engineer, who took a sip from his thermos. 

‘Oh, we’ll be careful where we dig,’ this Juliette finally answered. ‘I’d hate for you to hear us coming.’

Howey, Hugh - Shift Omnibus Edition 

I liked this book as much as I liked Wool. Even though Donald comes off poorly, the entire book, the plot, the characters, the pacing, the themes,  . . .  I love em all. I can’t wait for the next installment. It was particularly fun to see the same conversations from a different point of view. The above lines are those that occurred in Wool. Great, great book.  

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Some of These Seem Familar

A while back I posted the results of a worst first lines writing contest. I went ahead and added a few examples, including this one:

As an ornithologist, George was fascinated by the fact that urine and feces mix in birds’ rectums to form a unified, homogeneous slurry that is expelled through defecation, although eying Greta's face, and sensing the reaction of the congregation, he immediately realized he should have used a different analogy to describe their relationship in his wedding vows. 

~David Pepper, Hermosa Beach, CA

Now we have this one, a selection of winners from the Bulwer-Lytton bad fiction writing contest and this one that is the worst love scene writing. The above example made this new list too. It's still among the best, but these are also worth pasting here as well:

As his small boat scudded before a brisk breeze under a sapphire sky dappled with cerulean clouds with indigo bases, through cobalt seas that deepened to navy nearer the boat and faded to azure at the horizon, Ian was at a loss as to why he felt blue. 

~Mike Pedersen, North Berwick, ME

She had whispered wantonly, “Come to bed, Yul,” but was now staring in utter disgust because the green lava lamp was too revealingly bright as he fumbled to adjust his new Merken, a $300 pubic toupee that had looked like a steal on eBay, but now looked just like a wet Tribble that had inexplicably crawled up his crack from an old “Star Trek” episode. 

~Barry Bozzone, Allentown, PA

For reasons easy to understand all these examples of bad writing make me feel so much better about my own writing. 

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Donald's a Douche

I love this statement, particularly when considering "Donald" in Shift.

Shannon Cudney, in a review of my novel, On the Edge, has this imminently quotable line:

At first I hated Joe and didn't know if I was going to make it through the book. He seemed to be such a douche. But as the story began to unfold, I found that some of the douchery was really his own anxieties taking hold. 

Who can't like the word "douchery." What is even better is that she decides that not only Joe but the entire book is worthwhile in the end.

From that point forward I wanted to learn more about this guy and what makes him tick. The novel is full of twists and turns that keep the reader engaged. The story line is realistic and detailed. I am sure the author's military background made all the difference for me in the flashback scenes. Many times I will gloss over these types of things (military stories just aren't my cup o' tea) but Hannah truly painted a picture with his words that keep me intrigued.

There is a little bit of everything in this book. Suspense. Mystery. A little taste of romance. And pretty deep character development packed into a fairly short novel. It was a really good read and I recommend it to anyone who enjoys "who done it?" mystery/thriller books.

One of the reasons that this speaks to me is that I think Donald in Shift is a similarly milque toasty character. I almost don't want to read on because he is so passive and incredibly blase'. That being said, the plot is compelling, the Silo universe is so terrifically rich that I have to overlook Donald and read on. I'm glad to see that my own book has the same compelling nature.

Monday, December 16, 2013

I've Been Looking Forward to This One

I bought this book over a month ago and I've really been looking forward to reading it. The second installment in the Wool series (or Silo Saga) by Hugh Howey, Shift, at least based on the first few lines, looks like it will be just as good as the first installment.



Troy returned to the living and found himself inside of a tomb. He awoke to a world of confinement, a thick sheet of frosted glass pressed near to his face. 

Dark shapes stirred on the other side of the icy murk. He tried to lift his arms, to beat on the glass, but his muscles were too weak. He attempted to scream – but could only cough. The taste in his mouth was foul. His ears rang with the clank of heavy locks opening, the hiss of air, the squeak of hinges long dormant.

Howey, Hugh - Shift Omnibus Edition

One aspect of reading this that I find disconncerting, over and above the forced live burial of a subset of humanity, the destruction of the world by nano-weapons and nuclear warfare, the betrayal, the death, the conspiracies, is that I didn't know that this had come out.

Where's the email to those who bought Wool Amazon? Where's the spam that says, "Hey, did you know the next chapter is out?" In this case I only found out about this new book from a reader (yes, we have one or two faithful readers out there other than you) whilst on a run through the woods! Amazon, you can do better.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Today's Last Line



Dortmunder threw the lever and opened the rear door. 

The alarm made an awful sound, it went right through your head like a science-fiction ray gun. “Shit,” Dortmunder said. Through the open door, streetlight glare reflected off white cartons with the letters TV on them. “Shit again,” Dortmunder said. 

Kelp was already running, and now Dortmunder followed him. Murch was boiling out of the stolen cab, and all three men ran across Twelfth Avenue and down into the warren of side streets known as the West Village. After two blocks they slowed to a walk, and then strolled on eastward toward Greenwich Village, ignoring the propositions of the homosexuals who hung out in this area at night. 

It took Dortmunder four blocks to build himself up to it but finally, gritting his teeth, he turned toward Kelp and said, “I’m sorry.” 

“It’s okay,” Kelp said. “Could have happened to anybody.” He was so glad that for once he couldn’t be blamed for what had happened that he didn’t even mind the loss of the TV sets.

Westlake, Donald E - Jimmy the Kid

More than any other Dortmunder novel, I thought this one dealt with some serious issues for the characters, and the most major one is shown in this final few lines. I was surprised by the relationship between Kelp and Dortmunder thoughout the novel. Usually its fun and light-hearted, and their were moment of that here. But it was also quite tense and I found myself not at all siding with Dortmunder. Funny.

Still, another fun, light book to read, and just what I needed after NaNo.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Check



DORTMUNDER, WEARING BLACK and carrying his canvas bag of burglar tools, walked across the rooftops from the parking garage on the corner. At the sixth roof, he looked over the front edge to be absolutely sure he was on the right building, and felt dizzy for just a second when he saw the distant street six storeys down, floating like a ship in the glare of streetlights. Cars were parked along both sides, leaving one black lane open in the middle. A cab was going by down there, its yellow top glinting in the light. Behind the cab came a slow-moving police car; the unlit flasher dome on its roof looked like a piece of candy.

Westlake, Donald E - Jimmy the Kid

This is the most recent first line I read. Establishes character? Check. Establishes setting? Check. Establishes mood, tone and sense? Check, check and check. Makes the reader want to know more? Check.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Last Line for Plum

I continue to add to and keep track of my last lines series, despite no epiphanies from it yet (for more on why I catalog last lines or to see more, follow this link - here). This one provides no greater insight into human nature.



I took the elevator, walked the length of the hall, and balanced the hamster tank on one knee while I opened my front door. I stepped inside and flipped on the light. Everything looked perfect. No Orin splattered on the wall . No broken window. Clean floor.

There was a bottle of champagne on my kitchen counter plus a check and a note from Ranger.

For a job well done, the note said. I’ll be around later. I need a date.

Evanovich, Janet - Notorious Nineteen

I'm sure that we could parse and dissect these lines and see that Stephanie is riding the elevator up . . . meaning that she is coming up out of the funk that she had been in. That this could be the start of a new positive time in her life. Or we could talk about how there is no "Orin" splattered on the wall. Or how the floor was "clean."

But having read alot of Evanovich's stuff, I think she wanted us to look at the final line, and begin to wonder if there is something happening between her and Ranger and whether or not that might affect her relationship with Morelli.

For my taste this love triangle has gone on too long. Personnally I fear that readers like myself suspect she's gone to this well once too often. STill, I will most likely read the next, probably when I need a lighthearted easy book to digest.

Friday, December 6, 2013

American Pickers

One show that my "roommate" (aka my wife) can't get enough of is a show called American Pickers that follows to antiquers as they travel through the US looking for wares for their stores. If this show is on, then my roomie can usually be found watching it. I tag along usually, but sadly I also usually fall asleep.

That being said, the two main characters meet up with people who have outrageous "collections." I place collections in quotes, cause a less polite writer might have written, "junk." Here are these older folks who have spent their lives just collecting and collecting and storing and storing. Then along comes American Pickers and they dig around and see if there's any gems among their treasures.


The other day my wife asked me what I might end up collecting. Books? I'm not sure but I think this was said tongue in cheek. She has been the main reason I've had to downsize my book collection. Both cause she gave me a kindle but also because she has been the primary motivator of my taking my books to the resell shop.

One thing I will say I collect is quotes about the morning. See my collection by following this link (here). I dare anyone to find another blogger who logs quotes about the morning in their blog. I'm in BABY!

To that end I offer this one that I found simple, direct, and pert darn good.

The sun was pouring into my living room. The day had started without me.

Evanovich, Janet - Notorious Nineteen

It's quick, effective, blends perfectly with the surrounding prose and plot. Might be among the best of the collection. And it's from such an unexpected source.

This might be one of those gems that years from now someone will pick up and say, "I'll give you a nickle for it."

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Going to Have to Go On the Bad List

As I've said in the past (here), first lines are quite important. I don't think that Janet Evanovich's first line from Notorious Nineteen would make the cut to "good first lines," that I've started.



“I DON’T KNOW why we gotta sit here baking in your car in the middle of the day, in the middle of the summer, in the middle of this crummy neighborhood,” Lula said . “It must be two hundred degrees in here. Why don’t we have the air conditioning on?” 

“It’s broken,” I told her. 

“Well, why don’t you have your window open?” 

“It’s stuck closed.” 

“Then why didn’t we take my car? My car’s got everything.” 

“Your car is red and flashy. People notice it and remember it. This is the stealth car,” I said. 

Lula shifted in her seat. “Stealth car, my big toe. This thing is a hunk of junk.”

Evanovich, Janet -Notorious Nineteen

I read this because after NaNo I needed something light and airy. I got it. Fun to read but not a world beater by any means.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Been Awhile

Sorry it's been such a long time since I posted, but in my defence I've been extrordinarily busy. Busy on NaNo. I finished. I think that makes it seven or eight NaNo's completed. So again, I have this library of 50,000 word or more stories, some better and more fleshed out than others. This one, this year's work, I think is more developed than any other, but also it is the least finished.


You can see by the image that I actually did get to 50,000 words. I am nowhere close to the end of the story though. I would say there's a good 50% more to write. This is good and bad. Good that I have a great, compelling, story some of which is on paper, most of it developed. Bad in that I have no idea when I might write it. Maybe next years NaNo should be the final 50,000 words.

I still like NaNo, particularly this year. In past years it was just a brain dump, and that's the way the story read. This year it felt more put together and finished. There's still alot I want to change, but for the most part, there's a pretty decent story there.

Glad I did. Glad I have another rough draft. Looking forward to next year. But now it's time to get back to the project I was working on prior to November.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Halfway There and Still Moving Nicely

When I say halfway I mean it both in terms of the month, but also in terms of the story. I just wrote scene number five of my ten key scenes outline.


Along with my stats, which I'm quite satisfied with, I ran across these.

First, a blog post from Pub(lishing) Crawl (which is a wonderful name) on Simple Tricks to Unstick Your Story: The Domino Effect by Susan Dennard. It's a terrific article with this key point:

Do your last few scenes (or maybe even your last 20 scenes–sometimes I have to go pretty far back to see where things begin unraveling) logically connect? Do the emotional beats progress and shift as the events and previous scenes indicate they should? Does the character’s goal shift according to his/her emotional shift?

This is a toughy. At this point I can say that mine do not. I'm afraid that will have to wait for the rewrite.

There is a little blog post here on creating believable characters. The book I read in preparation for this NaNo had me do the same thing. I might try this method cause the other didn't take. I think I quit after one.

Finally, there is 25 Turns, Pivots, and Twists to Complicate Your Story that I found on terribleminds.

All of these are helping me plod along.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Continuing Apace

Yep, things are still going well for this year's NaNo entry. I had a bit of a struggle a few days ago, but the outline helped get me back on track, just as I mentioned earlier.



Looking at this graph, and seeing the overall progress, and more importantly comparing it to last year's effort and the entry previous to that, I'm surprised (and a tad worried) by how well this is going. First, last years graph. I had trouble keeping up obviously. This was the novel regarding the murder mystery that I ran into while touring a refinery (see more here).


The year before that, where I kept up quite well, I wrote like a fiend! This was the moment when I wrote the rough draft of the novel I'm currently revising called Vapor Trail. The problem . . . I'm re-writing that novel right now with my critique group, and I would guess that 75% of what I wrote will not be re-written but instead will just be trashed. I blame the lack of an outline.



So how will this year's effort flesh out? Next year will I see it as I see 2012's entry? As a compendium of nonsense and a waste of a month's writing? Or like Vapor Trail, a grain of a good idea but a lot that needs to be redone.

I believe that this year's work is far more polished than the previous entries. I think not having to worry about where the story and the plot are going (or coming from), by doing just a bit of outlining and planning, I've allowed the story to stay on track naturally, the story has taken far fewer blind alleys, and I think by having that road map it has allowed me to focus on the writing just that wee bit more, and hopefully that will pay off in the re-writing.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Faltering

Uh oh. I had my first day of not making my writing numbers. The dashboard lets me know when I've hit my writing word minimums for the day. The minimum is 1667 a day. Yesterday, for the first time so far, I didn't make it. I only wrote 700.



I woke up. I just didn't write. I've been waking up every morning. I am awake now. I hope to double my output today so that I can make up for yesterday. The problem . . . I've hit a bit of a wall. The writing isn't as good. The story isn't coming quite as easily.

The good thing is that I have an outline. I'm going to go right back to my outline and write from that. No need to waste time wondering what to write next, or where I'm going. Not with my road map.

So despite not hitting the mark yesterday, I am pressing on.

Friday, November 8, 2013

The Importance of Getting It Right

I'm posting a link to an article about the best newspaper corrections. I wasn't going to, but then I read this one and felt compelled to post it for anyone to read:

“Last Sunday, The Herald erroneously reported that original Dolphin Johnny Holmes had been an insurance salesman in Raleigh, NC, that he had won the New York lottery in 1982 and lost the money in a land swindle, that he had been charged with vehicular homicide but acquitted because his mother said she drove the car, and that he stated that the funniest thing he ever saw was Flipper spouting water on George Wilson. Each of these items was erroneous material published inadvertently. He was not an insurance salesman in Raleigh, did not win the lottery, neither he nor his mother was charged or involved in any way with a vehicular homicide, and he made no comment about Flipper or George Wilson. The Herald regrets the errors.”

Miami Herald, 1986

I don't believe it. I think my next stop will be Snopes to see if its true. Or perhaps they got two different stories mixed up and accidentally put the wrong man's name in the wrong story. Either way, here is the link to the others.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Haven't Done This Before . . .

I haven't done this before, but I'm going to promote this link that my NaNo liaison, and more notably, my critique group organizer, Lindsey, has posted to NaNo's website.




This could be the most in depth series of links I've ever seen, and the image above is only a subset of the whole. In it are links to character name generators, lists of names by country, world mapping applications, Pixar's rules for storytelling, plotting applications, and more. I'm amazed by all the links that are there.

Again, I'm promoting this blog on NaNo's forums so I hope that this series of links, which can also be found on the forum, can help some of my fellow NaNo writers.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Although the first line didn't grab me (see here) at least not as much as other Forsyth first lines (here) I will say that I liked the kill list almost as much as I liked some of the earlier Forsyth novels.

One of my favorite novels is The Dogs of War. This one was just as to the point and factual and reads like a primer on project management rather than a thriller. Not quite as good as The Dogs of War, but better than others.



The Pathfinders went back to their base at Colchester and resumed their careers. 

Ove Carlsson made a complete recovery and studied for a master’s degree in business administration. He joined his father’s company, but he never went back to sea. 

Ariel became famous in his tiny and, to most people, incomprehensible world when he invented a firewall that even he could not penetrate. His system was widely adopted by banks, defense contractors and government departments. On the Tracker’s advice, he acquired a shrewd and honest business manager, who secured him royalty contracts that made him comfortably off. 

His parents were able to move to a bigger house set in its own grounds, but he still lived with them and hated going out. 

Colonel Christopher “Kit” Carson, aka Jamie Jackson, aka the Tracker, served out his time, retired from the Corps, married a very comely widow and set up a company delivering personal security for the ultra-wealthy traveling abroad. It made him a good living, but he never went back to Somalia.

Forsyth, Frederick - The Kill List 

That last last last line made me remember this little video I saw about a former sergeant I got to work with and run with in RIP, Sergeant Struecker. If you know anything about the Battle of Mogadishu, it's worth the nine minutes to watch.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Day Four and All Is Well

So, I'm on day four and so far I'm doing well. Not great, but well. I'm at 10,206 at the present time and the day is still not yet complete. I might get up to 11,000 by the end of the day. However based on the graph I'm still ahead of schedule.


What I really like, much more than the graph, is the dashboard next to the graph on my novel stats page.


I like the fact that it shows when I'm done writing for the day. The little bar, the second from the bottom changes from blue to green and boom, then I'm done for the day. I keep that in the green and I'm golden.

I love the fact that Octorber's outlining has helped so much. My ten key scenes have really helped me stay on track. I knock out the scene, realize that there is another subsidiary scene then knock that out. Instead of getting side tracked and staying on that secondary scene I get back to the ten key scenes and I'm back on track again. I love that.

So far I can honestly say that this is the best NaNo both in terms of content written and words written per day that I've been through yet. Here's to it staying that way. I can also say that I almost didn't do this NaNo. I was on the verge of passing when I heard a buddy from my writing group say that each year she does NaNo and each year the writing gets worse and worse (paraphrasing) so that all she's left with is a huge jumble. I can relate. I have had the same experience. Additionally the process of going through that jumble and rewriting, editing, and unjumbling it is not fun.

So far the jumble is far far away and I hope it remains that way. Glad I didn't listen. Hope she didn't either.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Not a Bad Start

Where have I been the past few days? Working on my outline. Where have I been today? Working on my novel! And it's not a bad start.

Loyal readers will remember that last year I gave updates on a semi-regular basis on my progress to 60K. If you want to go back and see those updates, for the past few years in fact, you can here.



Based on the metrics on NaNo I need to write 1667 words a day to get to 60K at the end of the month. Today, day one, I hit 2244. I'm ahead of schedule. Let's hope I stay that way.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Just Doesn't Grab Me

Sorry, this one just doesn't resonate with me. It seems like he's back-slid from the last few first lines I've cataloged in this space (here and here).



In the dark and secret heart of Washington, there is a short and very covert list. It contains the names of terrorists who have been deemed so dangerous to the United States, her citizens and interests, that they have been condemned to death without any attempt at arrest, trial or any due process. It is called the kill list.

Forsyth, Frederick - The Kill List 

It is just so trite and to the point. For some reason as I read it I thought about a fourth grader trying to write a novel and emulating his favorite thriller authors. Not a fitting first line for such a terrific author and what is turning out to be such a good book.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Since We're on the Subject

As NaNo is right around the corner, and as we've been discussing opening lines and scenes these past few posts (here and here), I thought that posting this from The Write Life seemed apropos.



The Worst Way to Begin Your Novel Advice from Literary Agents by Chuck Sambuchino gives some terrific bullet points for authors from the literary agent's point of view. Some of them are things most of us have seen and heard and dislike on our own.

“A sci-fi novel that spends the first two pages describing the strange landscape.”
- Chip MacGregor, MacGregor Literary

or

“A cheesy hook drives me nuts. They say ‘Open with a hook!’ to grab the reader. That’s true, but there’s a fine line between an intriguing hook and one that’s just silly. An example of a silly hook would be opening with a line of overtly sexual dialogue.”

- Daniel Lazar, Writers House

Both of these are terrific in my view but the one that stopped me cold came up regarding too much flowery prose, if only cause it intersected so well with my own series of posts on descriptions of mornings (here).

“The [adjective] [adjective] sun rose in the [adjective] [adjective] sky, shedding its [adjective] light across the [adjective] [adjective] [adjective] land.”
- Chip MacGregor, MacGregor Literary

It's so close to Roger Lawrence's comment on my post Doubter's Take Note:

It's because mornings are so much more vital. After you've said, "the evening sun cast an ochre smear over the dying sky", or something like that; what more is there to say.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Some of These Are Spot On for Comedies

When I saw the link to 33 Of The Most Hilariously Terrible First Sentences In Literature History by Nico Lang and realized how well it intersected with the series of blog posts I've had here over the past few days, there was no way I couldn't post it.

It's well worth reading. Some of them are really quite good if the rest of the book is meant to be funny. I chose four of my favorites just as an amuse-bouche to help you decide to click the above link and invest the five minutes it takes to read them. Hearing about what sex after fifty is like with Rachel makes the return on the investment well worthwhile.

She strutted into my office wearing a dress that clung to her like Saran Wrap to a sloppily butchered pork knuckle, bone and sinew jutting and lurching asymmetrically beneath its folds, the tightness exaggerating the granularity of the suet and causing what little palatable meat there was to sweat, its transparency the thief of imagination.

Chris Wieloch

On reflection, Angela perceived that her relationship with Tom had always been rocky, not quite a roller-coaster ride but more like when the toilet-paper roll gets a little squashed so it hangs crooked and every time you pull some off you can hear the rest going bumpity-bumpity in its holder until you go nuts and push it back into shape, a degree of annoyance that Angela had now almost attained.

Rephah Berg

As an ornithologist, George was fascinated by the fact that urine and feces mix in birds’ rectums to form a unified, homogeneous slurry that is expelled through defecation, although eying Greta’s face, and sensing the reaction of the congregation, he immediately realized he should have used a different analogy to describe their relationship in his wedding vows.

David Pepper

Sex with Rachel after she turned fifty was like driving the last-place team on the last day of the Iditarod Dog Sled Race, the point no longer the ride but the finish, the difficulty not the speed but keeping all the parts moving in the right direction, not to mention all that irritating barking.

Dan Winters

Again,  . . . well worth the time. Definitely adding this post to the series.

Daddy's Disgusting Book Title

This caught my attention. Lit Reactor has an article up by Christopher Schulz called Founder of Book Genome Project Calls Self-Publishing A Literary "Darknet" that is interesting in terms of understanding how meta-data is hindering the ability to truly know what genre's and types of books are being self-published and how that is similar to the Darknet.

But that's not what caught my eye. What caught my eye was the description of one of these self-published books that Schulz references the fact that the article he is referencing references "a particularly unsettling trend of incest and bestiality books that enter the marketplace completely unchecked." To prove the point he brings up Daddy's Invisible Condom (I'm not linking to it) and at least has this positive aspect of that book "On the plus side, books such as these don't seem to sell well."


It's an interesting few minutes read and the article it references too is worthwhile for anyone interested in self-publishing and the trends among the self-publishing ranks.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Keep It Under Your Hat

So I ran across a first line that I really liked the other day by way of my writing group. This is from an unpublished (and perhaps unfinished) work, so don't nobody go around advertising it or the next thing you know Michael will want a royalty for my using it on a pay per visit basis, and I'd hate for him to realize that it would only add up to a nickle at most . . . total (not a knock on his work . . . rather a knock on my ability to drive views to my site).

Agnes Sanders hadn’t eaten any of her meal because she was dead .

Michael Sirois - Everything's Okay at Restful Pines

I don't know . . . I kinda like it. Is it a bit "in your face?" a tad "amateurish" . . . perhaps, but had you had the benefit of reading the rest of the work I think you would have liked it too.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Another Last Line

Yet one more for my last lines series. This time it's Solo by Jack Higgins. I posted the first line just a few days ago, so that should say a lot about my reading speed or the length of the novel (in this case choose the latter).



When he reached the top of the stairs leading down to the main foyer, there was no sign of her. He went down them two at a time and straight out through the glass doors. Behind him, orchestra and chorus and the entire audience broke into the glorious strains of ‘Jerusalem.’ 

It was raining hard, the road jammed with traffic. As he went down the steps, Ferguson came to meet him, holding an umbrella over his head. 

‘Congratulations, Asa.’ 

‘What you wanted, wasn't it? I knew that from the beginning. We both did. Just the same old bloody game, like always.’ 

‘Neatly put.’ Morgan gazed around him widly. 

‘Where is she?’ 

‘Over there.’ Ferguson nodded across the road. ‘I'd hurry, if I were you, Asa. 

But Morgan, darting between the traffic through heavy rain, was too late for as he reached the other side, she had already moved past the Albert Memorial and disappeared into the darkness of the park.

Higgins, Jack - Solo

Again, I'm not too sure I should continue this series, I'm just not seeing too much insight into humanity, writing or the world through author's messages in the last lines. But, that being said, and maybe I'm jaded because I felt so much like I was reading a James Bond novel as I read this work, but this last line probably does more to argue against dissolving this series than any of the others that have come before it.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Not a Bad Chart

I ran across a really nice chart today. I have several posts in the past few years on self-publishing (see here) so it's nice to see many of the things I've talked about displayed graphically.

Gary McLaren's Ebook Aggragators Comparison Chart is not bad for anyone considering self-publishing and trying to see the difference between all the choices there are for formatting and distributing their book.


The only problem that I have with this article is that it is way too short. I want more information. Guess I'll have to spend some time tooling around the blog.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Another First

Last week I wrote about the last line that I read, so naturally today I have yet another first line for the compilation I'm collecting (here).

The Cretan turned in through the gate in the high, brick wall surrounding the house near Regent's Park, stepped into the shrubbery, merging with the shadows. He glanced at the luminous dial of his watch. Ten minutes to seven, which meant he had a little time in hand. 

He was wearing a dark anorak from one pocket of which he produced a Mauser with a bulbous silencer on the end of the barrel. He checked the action and slipped it back into his pocket. 

The house was imposing enough, which was only to be expected for it was owned by Maxwell Jacob Cohen - Max Cohen to his friends. Amongst other things, chairman of the largest clothing manufacturers in the world, one of the most influential Jews in British society. A man loved and respected by everyone who knew him. 

Unfortunately, he was also an ardent Zionist, a considerable disadvantage in the eyes of certain people. Not that it bothered the Cretan. Politics were a nonsense. Games for children. He never queried the target, only the details and in this case he'd checked them thoroughly. There was Cohen, his wife and the maid - no one else. The rest of the servants lived out. 

He took a black balaclava helmet from his pocket, which he pulled over his head, leaving only his eyes, nose and mouth exposed, then he pulled up the hood of the anorak, stepped out of the shrubbery and moved towards the house.

Higgins, Jack - Solo

Irrespective of the fact that I've never heard of a balaclava being called a "balaclava helmet" it's not a bad few opening paragraphs. In many respects it's much like the book in that it's slow to get to the point but when it does the pace picks up tremendously.


Thursday, October 10, 2013

A While Back This Seemed to Make Sense

A while back I read an article about the importance of first lines in novels so I started compiling and tagging all the first lines I came across (see here). I also created a compendium of last lines (here) and since I saw so many allusions to the morning I aggregated them (here) as well. I meant to make one for middle lines, but have yet to begin that work.

Nevertheless, I've come to the point where I don't know if last lines are worthwhile anymore. Here is the most recent.


“You know,” said Devereaux, as McBride reached the door, “if there’s one thing that thirty years in this agency has taught me, it’s this. There are some levels of loyalty that command us beyond even the call of duty.

Forsyth, Frederick - Avenger

But again, we have an epilogue here. That last line of the text is pretty good. In fact it could be among the best last lines I've collected (which really says more about the other last lines than about this one). Still, for some reason all I could think about as I read that antagonist's name, Devereaux, all I could think about was the Silver Streak movie.

McBride was still looking in the mirror, but he seemed to see two young GIs, rat-assed on beer and wine, laughing in the warm Saigon night, and a white Petromax lamp hissing, and a Chinese tattooist at work. Two young Americans who would part company but be bound by a bond that nothing could ever break. And he saw a slim file a few weeks earlier, which mentioned a tattoo of a grinning rat on the left forearm. And he heard the order to find the man and have him killed. 

He slipped his watch back on his wrist and flipped his sleeve back down. He checked the day-date window. September 10, 2001. 

“It’s quite a story, son,” said the Badger, “and it all happened long ago and far away.”

Forsyth, Frederick - Avenger

I know why he had to put it in . . . this is the O'Henry-esque twist at the end. But that first last line was so much better.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Always Open With a Grizzly Murder

Does the Prologue's first line count as the first line of the book? If so, this one makes the reader read on to find out. Here's the most recent first line I have in my "first lines" group.




It was the seventh time they had pushed the American boy down into the liquid excrement of the cesspit that he failed to fight back and died down there, every orifice filled with unspeakable filth. 

When they were done, the men put down their poles, sat on the grass, laughed, and smoked. Then they finished off the other aid worker and the six orphans, took the relief agency off-road, and drove back across the mountain. 

It was May 15, 1995.

Forsyth, Frederick - Avenger

Hard to believe, but the description of this act only gets worse as the reader continues reading.

Chapter 1's first line made me think of my own book, Toe the Line for the mentions of the Triathlon.

He leaned into the gradient and once again fought the enemy of his own pain. It was a torture and a therapy. That was why he did it. 

Those who know often say that of all the disciplines the triathlon is the most brutal and unforgiving. The decathlete has more skills to master, and putting the shot needs more brute strength; but for fearsome stamina and the capacity to meet the pain and beat it, there are few trials like the triathlon.

Forsyth, Frederick - Avenger

Note to self, when faced with the choice of a first line about triathlons or about murder of children in a cess pool, choose the murder. Forsythe does and it makes you want to know more.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Some Links

I follow several different writing groups both on LinkedIn and on Facebook, both of the ones I've linked to are for the National Novel Writing Month. Since I'm a part of these group I get detritus in the form of links and silly articles that usually don't even hit my radar. This one in LitReactor did.



8 Ways to Support the Writers in Your Life by Robbie Blair provides eight different bullet points and associated paragraphs on how to deal with writers. Among the these, two caught my eye.

2. Don't lie.
If you want to express interest in something your writer is crafting, then that's fantastic—so long as you're actually interested. Sure, some writers will feel put off if you don't love their work as much as you love them, but you'll be doing them a disservice if you pretend to like something that bores you to tears.

Authentic interest is something we crave—but don't offer interest if it isn't real. If you want to become interested but aren't yet, try asking gentle, open questions about the story. Note that some writers will not enjoy this at all while others will enjoy both the attention and the opportunity to further formulate their ideas. If they're comfortable talking about their work, guide the conversation toward the elements of the story that actually appeal to you.

It's not just the "interest" that I don't want readers to lie about, but it's the edits as well. Let me know when something doesn't read well . . . Let me know when it doesn't work . . . Let me know when you get bored or confused. When I ask someone to help me by editing or reviewing then I'm providing you carte blanche to be open, honest and truthful. Be brutally open, honest and truthful.

4. Get them to write, right now.
Not talk about their writing. Not brainstorm. Not organize. Not research. Not read articles on LitReactor.

Write.

Just write.

Writers face what I refer to as an "inertial barrier." It's difficult for us to get started with writing, but once we've gotten there it gets progressively easier and more enjoyable. We tend to be quite practiced at procrastination techniques, especially the ones that make it seem like we're working on our story, but this only serves to increase the inertia. If you give us an extra push toward simply writing, you'll be helping us get the momentum and energy required to get past the inertial barrier.

This resonates a tad less if only cause the only way my family can provide me the motivation to write is to get out of the house or allow me to. At this point, with two toddlers and an 8 year old, those moments are few and far between.

Nevertheless, it was fun to see motivation and thoughts on how to support a writer from a perspective that I had not seen before.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Oh No!

Anyone who has read this blog and seen these posts  had to know that this post was coming when they saw the news yesterday of Tom Clancy's death.



Stunned. I was stunned. My brother was too until he said, "he smoked a lot" then it seemed the stunnedness wore off on him as if he had been expecting it.

I read this article, by David French in National Review and reminisced about the books I'd read of his.

I can think of few better books for boys to read, where the heroes were tough, honorable, and brave, and they understood that evil can’t be appeased but must be overcome. For a Cold War kid, the stories had a ripped-from-the-headlines feel, and many of them felt almost plausible enough that you could imagine you were reading a classified debrief.

Hunt for Red October was far from my favorite. That honor goes to Debt of Honor but might be beat out by Red Storm Rising if I happen to read it again. I thought the final scenes of Dead or Alive was life altering, literally and figuratively. I thought Without Remorse was a waste of time and much of his most recent stuff has not had the same impact as the earlier books. Despite all of that, they are some great books and he was a terrific, I would say genre bending, author.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Yep . . . Can Be Done

This article I found by Alison Heller called Why a Lawyer Mom Decided to Write her First Novel is not a bad three minutes investment of time for an apsiring writer with a family and full time job. It proves that despite those obstacles (and I don't generally like calling my family obstacles) a successful writing life is out there.

The Love Wars, although not on my To Be Read list, is her go at having it all. In the article she writes:

When I signed up for a writing workshop, in the midst of all I was doing, I kept it quiet. I was embarrassed for even having the goal of writing the book that had been buzzing around in my head, let alone selfishly demanding the time to try to write it.

This is exactly why I'm waking at 5 AM to write for an hour or so. Three days into it and still struggling to make it a habit, but it's better than not being able to throw the ball with the seven year old and his friends in the street as I did last night.

I do like the way she saw hours as "billable time" to be traded and bought as needed.

More difficult was owning up to what I let slip: exercise; home-cooking beyond the microwave; staying on top of thank-you notes and dentist appointments and school deadlines. I still managed to waste time on the Internet (and then, of course, more time beating myself up about it). I also incurred the literal cost of buying more time. For example: food—I relied on online groceries, prepared dinners and take-out. My husband’s salary enabled the hike in expense; mine on its own couldn’t have.

As a lawyer, I’d found it unnatural and unromantic to view an hour as a commodity. But at some point in that year, I forced myself to budget my time like it was money, spending first on the necessities: family time and client needs. After that, I consciously “paid” myself in writing hours. (And after that, there was almost no time left.)

Nevertheless, she's prove that you can "have it all" providing you have the proper motivation and support.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

New One For Me

I've read what? About a dozen or so (maybe two dozen) books on the craft of writing? This is the first time I've run into this theory. Lifted from Victoria Lynn Schmidt's Book in a Month, part of her second day of writing and outlining.

When I worked as a film analyst, I noticed that A-level movies had approximately ten to twenty scenes total, and B-level movies had thirty-five to sixty scenes total. This happened in every single case. Some A-level movies are now three hours long, but even so, the better movies just don't have as many scenes as the lesser ones do. The writers of the B movies were trying to do too much, switching scenes to try and make it seem as thought there were a lot of action or drama taking place. They didn't use the scenes they had to full effect. They didn't use the opportunities for action and drama that were right in front of them.

So she has the writer sketch out the ten key scenes that will be a part of the book in a month. Sure there might be some minor scenes stitching it all together, but there should be ten key scenes that take the reader through the story arc to the end. It's an interesting exercise and as I said, that's the first time I've heard that.

I wonder how true it is. It almost makes me want to sit down with a counter the next time I watch a good movie just to see if I can see more than ten or twenty scenes in an A-level movie. Anyone else ever heard this?

Monday, September 30, 2013

Precedent Setting

I have now successfully established a precedent for this year's NaNo. I woke up at 4:55 with the intent to write.

Did I write?

A bit.

Did I pay bills? Check the sports scores from the night before? Check on my home warranty?

A bit.

But the waking up precedent is there. The writing precedent will follow.

I did write some. I am still writing 2009's (or is it 2010's) NaNo entry. I'm a quarter way through it and still writing. With each new scene I write I am reminded why this year's entry needs to be different (as I wrote here). I'm having to write stuff out of whole cloth. It's as if my work on the entry doesn't matter at all. None of the writing made it over to this draft. What was the point of writing it if none of the writing stays? I could have just written a good outline and gotten more out of it.

Still, as my grandfather used to sing, "you got to accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative, latch on to the affirmative and don't mess with Mr. Inbetween" . . . so in that spirit . . . I woke up and wrote for an hour.

Friday, September 27, 2013

NaNo Goals

I know when National Novel Writing Month is getting near cause I get so many (tongue in cheek) calls from my brother about it.

But, in an effort to make this year's experience more worthwhile, I'm doing a couple of new things. First, I'm reading a book about writing a book in a month by Reader's Digest. I hope that Miss Schmidt's Book in a Month, which is really closer to a workbook than a book book, will make the work I produce a closer draft to the finished product than what I've produced in the past. I find that on 25% or less of what I've written in previous years actually makes it through the re-writing process. Those are not acceptable losses.




Secondly, I'm setting some goals. Based on a website I found on personal goal setting, I intend to provide the following goals:

  1. State each goal as a positive statement - I will knock out 80,000 words during the month of November by writing approximately 3000 words a day during that month. They will all be toward the specific goal of writing the novel I've outlined during the previous months in my workbook on Book in a Month. In order to find the time I need to write I will wake up 6 out of every 7 mornings at 5 AM to write for atleast one hour on nothing but my NaNo writing. 
  2. Be precise - Okay, so not 3000 words, more like 2666.666667 a day.
  3. Set priorities – During November, waking up to write takes precedence over working for SEAL PT and sleeping. You have one day out of every seven to sleep in or work in the park. 
  4. Write goals down – Done
  5. Set performance goals, not outcome goals – Performance goal = 3000 words a day. Outcome goal = write a blockbuster novel.


Onward and upward to NaNo Victory!

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Another First Line

Despite the move that has forced me off of this blog, I have still been reading. Here's another first line from the past couple of weeks.



It would be so easy to kill you while you sleep.” He rolls onto his side and faces his wife, tangling his fingers in her hair. Her face is shrouded in a dried blue mask; an antiaging beauty product that has begun to peel. The moonlight peeking through the bedroom curtains makes her look already dead. He wonders if other people look at their partners at night, peacefully dozing, and imagine killing them. “I have a knife.” He brushes his fingertips along her hairline. “I keep it under the bed.” Her lips part and she snores softly. So ugly, especially for a model. All capped teeth and streaked hair. He wedges his hand between the mattress and box spring and pulls out the knife. It has a large wooden handle, disproportionate to the thin, finely honed blade. A fillet knife. He places it against his wife’s neck, gently.

Konrath, J.A - Bloody Mary

Although Konrath can be unnecessarily visceral and over the top in describing murders, particularly bloody murders, he does grab the readers attention with his first line.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Back to Re-Posting The Kill Zone

There is a fun article on The Kill Zone today about time management, something I need to do a better job of based on my inability to keep to my posting schedule. There are a couple of snippets that spoke to me. First:

Never before have we had so many options. It’s an exciting era, but it’s also utterly time consuming. Who has free time when we can publish our entire body of works through various formats, and spend hours on the social networks promoting them?

Now add the "full time job with travel and three kiddos" plus "move" and you have my life at the moment. No excuse though particularly with NaNo coming up.

Then there is this on setting goals, again, something I'll need to use more aggressively in the coming months.

Establishing priorities is paramount. When I’m in a writing phase, I set myself a daily quota of five pages a day. That’s my minimum, and I have to be at least halfway through before I’m permitted to peek at my email via Microsoft Outlook. I have to be finished before going online. This is the only way to get your writing done. Do it first before anything else intrudes.

Not a bad article by Miss Cohen. Always good for a refresher on how to balance a Writing Life."

Monday, September 23, 2013

Sorry

Sorry that I've taken some time off, but I've been busy moving. But! I'm back on the band-wagon and getting prepped for this year's Nano.

But before we get onto that, I have a first line.

I WAS ARRESTED IN ENO’S DINER. AT TWELVE O’CLOCK. I was eating eggs and drinking coffee. A late breakfast, not lunch. I was wet and tired after a long walk in heavy rain. All the way from the highway to the edge of town.

Child, Lee - Killing Floor 

Again, I say that these Reacher novels are modern day Louis L'Amour dime store novels. Having finished this second one, I'm standing behind that statement.


Thursday, August 22, 2013

Where Else . . .

I'm back at the airport, ergo I have some time to update the blog, but have little time to provide much more that just that . . . an update.

That being said, this is an update on spectacular creative writing. My brother sent me this link (here) before, but I didn't post it. Not only is it funny, but I think it is an example of outstanding creative writing. The style, the subject matter, the media, all terrific. Well worth the jump and the read.



Tuesday, August 20, 2013

I'm Not At Much Risk

I received a terrific email from a distant cousin, who I seem to remember from meetings at my grandparents old apartment, and I am quite pleased to re-post her link.

She is a new reader of this blog who started reading when I posted regarding Les Miserables. She might be our first (and only) international reader which should garner her a prize other than just a mention, but at this point does not.

All that being said, the link she sent was to The Guardian's book blogs and is titled Why is self-publishing still scorned by literary awards? The title provides enough description for me to discuss, but one of the key passages is this one:

Most literary awards are closed to self-published books. Entry criteria for the Booker prize state that "self-published books are not eligible where the author is the publisher or where a company has been specifically set up to publish that book", while the Bailey's women's prize for fiction stipulates that books must come from a "bone fide imprint".

I've noticed this too. Although I don't enter many contests anymore, having been a judge in a novel writing contest I discovered quite quickly how objective, arbitrary and distinctly unfair they are. That being said, I don't see, other than for suppressing sheer numbers of entries, why they wouldn't accept self-published books.

But, and this is the pigeon hole within which I fall, there are also award programs for ONLY self-published books.

Despite it all, thanks to our international reader for sending along a link and an interesting article that is well worth the jump and the thirty seconds it takes to read.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Got Me Thinking

This article from the weekend Review section of the WSJ got me thinking. (As a quick aside, for my 40th birthday I'm thinking of subscribing to the New York Times as well. So those of you thinking that this blog is a tad too WSJ heavy, just give it some time)

In the article, Mind & Matter: Our Unique Obsession With Rover and Fluffy, Robert Sapolsky discusses the way that we interact with pets in our lives. Its a fun little article that has very little to do with writing, but it got me thinking about my first writing, critique group. In that group there was an older gentleman, probably early to mid sixties, who was writing a book about a cadaver sniffing dog. This guy was a part of a volunteer organization that would go out and try and find lost children. It would make for interesting novels I bet. The problem was that he was writing from the point of view of the dog. It was a fiasco.

The worst part was that he refused to take any type of criticism. Not only was he wedded to the idea, but he was against making any changes in the entire book. The whole first chapter of the book describes the dog watching his owner make a cell phone call. We tried to talk him out of opening the book this way. Who wants to read about a dog's thoughts on his owner's cell phone calls. It was one of the more boring ways to start a book. Would he change it?  Nope. Not a bit.

I hope I never get so standoffish that I won't make changes. I doubt I ever will be. I think any and all writing vanity was drilled out of me when I started as a technical writer and had to turn my procedures in for editing. Those editors were ruthless. Martha, my first editor, was particularly liberal with her red pen. I remember those first few procedures came back, procedures that I thought were perfect, and they were completely reworked and red-marked. Years of that will train a fellow not to think to highly of his writing.

Then again, I sometimes wonder if the opposite reaction isn't worse. I rarely go out and promote my writing as anything other than mediocre. Even mediocre writing can be sold as spectacular. I can think of many books that I feel Toe the Line and On the Edge are better than, yet those books are nationally known while mine are still struggling out of the starting gate. Perhaps a bit of pride is a good thing to have as an author.

Still, one lesson I do know, be careful of the POV you choose. Choosing a dog? That's iffy. And as I wrote when I was a novel contest judge . . . choosing the POV of a pill? That's right out.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Could Be the Most Helpful Post Ever

This is why I like The Kill Zone so much. This is one little post asking for input on what resources indie authors most use and like. The comments are where the gold is. If you are a sometime reader, even if you're an all the time reader, of this blog, and if you are an author, it's worth a look see at the link and a review of the comments. Well worth it in fact.

On another note, there are some commentors who have written scads of recommendations for just about every single aspect of indie publishing . . . I had no idea I was doing so much. Perhaps I should stop the formatting, cover design, etc and concentrate on just writing.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Found Some Time . . . Guess Where . . .

At the airport again, so naturally I'm inspired to write a post and have the time to do so.

Today I read an article in the WSJ by Alexandra Alter about a mixed media novel. The article titled Marisha Pessl bends genres and mixes media in her new novel 'Night Film' is about a novel that mixes the conventional written word with photos, audio, illustrations and even short films.

Marisha Pessl's sprawling, 602-page literary thriller, "Night Film," opens like a typical mystery, with a body. Ashley Cordova, a 24-year-old piano prodigy and the daughter of the enigmatic, reclusive horror filmmaker Stanislas Cordova, turns up dead at the bottom of an elevator shaft in New York's Chinatown, apparently from suicide. A washed-up investigative journalist sets out to unravel the mystery of Ashley's death, and gets sucked into the cultish, underground world of fans who reenact Cordova's terrifying films.

What begins as a conventional hard-boiled crime story—a mysterious death, an investigation, a suspect at large—morphs into a twisty, genre-bending tale that alternates between crime, suspense and horror, with a supernatural element (witchcraft).

Although I find the 602-page aspect of the novel a tad daunting, the idea has merit. It's something I wanted since I first started reading on my Kindle. Bully for Miss Pessl for giving it a go.

Ms. Pessl says she was aiming to capture the way contemporary storytelling has become "a 360-degree experience" by releasing the story as layers of narrative through multiple channels, as a novel, an app, and as videos and images on websites like YouTube and Tumblr. "If someone Googles 'Cordova,' they can find tastes of his works," she says. "It adds layers of narrative."

Now I just need to get my brother to provide a reasonable story line where I can add a multimedia aspect. That being said, is it odd that I doubt I'll read it?

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

No Need to Worry

Anyone who thinks that e-books are a fad that will pass and that paper books will come roaring back, I'm afraid you are going to be disappointed.

From personal experience I can tell you that I, a conventional book junkie, fell off the paper book cliff into the arms of the e-book community with little more than a feather's push. As I've written before  I didn't even want a Kindle, and yet since my wife gave me one I've not been able to go back and read a single paper book since. I might grumble and gripe about the price, and I get wistful when I drive by the Half Price Bookstore, but for the most part I love the e-book experience.

Secondly, in terms of emperical evidence, one need only go read Nathan Bransford's post yesterday called Here comes another round of articles about e-book sales slowing down. He does a terrific job of breaking down the arguments and showing that if anything e-book sales are steady and/or climbing. Well worth a look see.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Spotty Posting

I know that my posting has been spotty lately, a cardinal sin for bloggers is a lack of consistency. If nothing else readers should be able to expect a certain consistency and continuity. That being said, it's about to get worse. The good news is that that down turn in blog posting capability will be countered by an increase in my ability to write my novel.



I've written before about my love of airports particularly as an AO for writing. I get more work done waiting for planes and on the plane than just about anywhere else. While other travelers are watching movies or eating and drinking at the terminal bars, I'm in one of those cushy chair writing away. Want to know what else is great about airports? The people.

I love watching the people in the airports. First, there are some great dressers there. Not quite on par with People of Walmart, but close. I saw a (had to be) 70 year old woman in white "shorter-alls" with a leopard print blouse and boots the other day and had to do a double take at that fashion forward look. Secondly, and I know this is rude, but I love listening into other folks' conversations. Try it some time. It's great fodder for character back stories. I met a banker once who was flying from Las Vegas to Virginia Beach one flight for an online date. That guy was a novel all by himself. Thirdly, it's great for marketing. I market my books at the airport more than anywhere else. If I strike up a conversation with a fellow traveler with a Kindle I can just about guarantee that Toe the Line or On the Edge will come up. I think that I'm a conscious airport marketer of my books because either I know that I'll probably never see this person again, so why not embarrass myself, or cause there are so many e-reader platforms found by airline travelers.

So, next three weeks. . . . expect spotty . . . but also expect lots of writing.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Looking Forward to It

I read with excitement that there will be another Stieg Larsson novel out soon. This article, Stieg Larsson’s Early Sci-Fi to Be Published Next Year by Jens Hansegard that I found via the WSJ as me salivating like Pavlov's dog. Not only am I a huge Stieg Larsson fan, I'm also an occasional yet huge sci-fi fan.

I've made no attempt to hide how much I liked Mr. Larsson's previous works (see here, here and here) so I'm quite happy to hear there will be more. Want to know what has me worried? The state of my previous works. What's going to happen when I become world famous for my writing and (hopefully not) die an early death. Will they go back and resurrect some of the nonsense I wrote years ago?

Guess it's time to go back and polish up those old dusty piles of paper.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Writing Bloobers

Yesterday I wrote about two series that I promote on my blog, the first line series and the last line series. To see all of the different series that I write about, take a look at the right side of the blog, just underneath the Blog Archive, the one titled "Labels." If you click on any of those you'll see every blog post I have within certain series.

Based on what I read today, I want there to be a new series.

This link shows 10 Outrageous Textbooks Blunders by Yvonne MacArthur in Top Degrees Online from May 1 of this year. I actually laughed (more of chortle) outloud as I read this.



I am a technical writer at work so I can see how many of these have happened, but some are so off the mark they have to have been done willfully. I can see how "Click Here" could have accidentally occurred, but the image of the hand in the garbage dumpster? Or the picture of the kid on the trampoline being a target for an archer? These have to have been deliberately planted.

Want a good laugh, I highly recommend reading the article. And I also highly suspect this will become a recurring post here.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

First Lines Again

I have a series that compiles first lines (see here) as well as last lines (see here) so it was with rapt attention that I read The Kill Zone this morning and saw a post on first lines over there.

It's a fun post to read, among the best passages is this quote from Stephen King:

“[A good opening] is not just the reader's way in, it's the writer's way in also, and you've got to find a doorway that fits us both. I think that's why my books tend to begin as first sentences -- I'll write that opening sentence first, and when I get it right I'll start to think I really have something."

Then P.J. Parrish says of many crime novelist openings:

I mean, don't you get a little tired sometimes reading the tortured openings some writers give us? Crime novelists might be the worst offenders because we are led to believe that we have to shock and awe in the opening graph or the story is DOA. As a reader, I hunger for books lately that open in a lower gear. As a writer, I am trying hard to follow the lead of King (and the King of Hearts) and just begin at the beginning.

I have been thinking the same thing. I remember when I was a judge for the local novel writing contest (see here) I was constantly being assaulted by the action oriented opening.

Then Miss Parrish provides the four openings from her favorite books, and boy is there a doozy or two in there. What I think is the best is this one:

"I was born twice: first, as a baby girl, on a remarkably smogless Detroit day in January of 1960; and then again, as a teenage boy, in an emergency room near Petoskey, Michigan, in August of 1974." 

Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides

Monday, August 5, 2013

Speaking of Great Analogies

I try to select and post passages from books that I find to be examples of good, great or stunning analogies (see sampling here). One came at me from an unlikely place concerning a topic which has been discussed here quite often.

My indispensable brother wrote me with another update on the ongoing Apple anti-trust lawsuit and follow-on decisions. This press release from the Department of Justice Office of Public Affairs shows just how ridiculous this decision against Apple has become. Readers will remember that I was original agin Apple (see here), then following a terrific article by L. Gordon Crovitz (here) I changed my views. This analogy by my brother, which sums up this ruling perfectly, puts me even more squarely in Apple's corner.

I'll trust the savvy readers of this blog to go read the press release themselves, but my brother's summation and analogy is better than anything the Federal Government can produce.

The justice department is telling Apple that to remedy what they have been found guilty for, they will have to change the way the iOS universe works to allow other publishers to build their own e-bookstores, and allow people with iOS devices to go to that.  As I see it, that would be like telling Barnes and Noble that they have to allow Penguin to open a store inside their shop right?  The iOS app and iTunes stores were created with the express purpose of providing a curated experience to the user.  Apple wanted to control the experience to limit confusion, to protect themselves and also, probably not altruistically, protect the user.  Now the government is telling them they can't do that. 

I guess now they will look at amazon and allow anyone to sell Kindle books to it right?  No need to go through amazon anymore to buy kindle books.  That's the only logical outcome.

On point if you ask me.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Technology is Cyclical

I was all set to post on one of my favorite scenes. It offers very little to the advancement of the story, but I think it's such a great scene with a terrific line that whenever I see the movie, Roxanne, I have to keep watching it till I see this scene.

CD: Ten more seconds and I'm leaving.

Roxanne: What did you say?

CD: I said "ten more seconds and I'm leaving."

Roxanne: Oh.

CD: Wait, what did you think I said?

Roxanne: I thought you said "earn more sessions by sleeving."

CD: Well what the hell does that mean?

Roxanne: I don't know, that's why I came out.



Then I saw this article on the resurgence of Audible books in the WSJ. Can You Hear Me Now by Alexandra Alter is worth a read. Among the more prescient passages are these:

The digital revolution may have dealt a heavy blow to print, but it is boosting literacy in other unexpected ways by fueling the explosive growth of audio books.

And this:

Once a static niche for aficionados renting clunky cassettes or CDs for their commutes, audio books have gone mass-market. Sales have jumped by double digits in recent years. Shifts in digital technology have broadened the pool of potential listeners to include anyone with a smartphone.

At the same time, publishers are investing six-figure sums in splashy productions with dozens of narrators. Using the Netflix model, some audio book producers have even started experimenting with original works written exclusively as audio productions, ranging from full-cast dramatizations in the style of old school radio plays, complete with music and sound effects, to young adult novels, thrillers and multipart science fiction epics.

I know that this is true for me. I have read (listened to) more audible books in the past few years than before. This is a combination of having read Stephen King's On Writing, where in he wonders why writers don't spend every waking moment writing or reading, and because of my ever lengthening commute.

There might also be a genetic reason for my listening to books on tape. My paternal grandfather was a huge fan of books on tape. Whenever I got into his car he had a small little box full of cassettes that he would slip in and listen to as we drove. It was always there. I used to rent books on tape from the library and still recall sitting in the parking lot before high school listening to Dick Francis on tape. I think I heard Bolt for the first time that way.

At the moment I'm listening to the complete works of Sherlock Holmes on tape. Usually I listened to military histories or biographies, I branched out with Sherlock Holmes thanks to a recommendation from my brother. Personally I think it's genetic and I'm glad that it is.