Saturday, December 31, 2016

Morning's Still Working . . .

I'm still waking up early to write every morning, but "early" has taken on quite a fluid meaning during the holidays.

Also, I've noticed an uptick in readership over the last couple of days. Who out there is reading this (as if I didn't already know). So, as a sop to my fan(s), I'm rededicating myself to journaling. You can thank of curse me later.

To that end, I'm writing about what could have been my favorite book of 2016. During my hiatus from writing here, I've finished quite a few books. Throughout 2016 I've read the following:

The Stand by Stephen King - What a great walk down memory lane (see here).
The Manchurian Candidate - Great book, but you could watch the movie and get the same thing (see here).
Four to Score by Evanovich - My fave for rainy day quick reads. It's eerie how much she's modeled her love interest(s) off of me (see here).
Icon by Frederick Forsyth - Even better than Red Storm Rising (see here).
Jack Reacher Running Blind - No comment. Just a time waster as so many of his are (see here).
The Third Deadly Sin - I've spent too much time telling this audience about my favorite author, but I'm sad that this will be the last new book of his I'll ever read (see here).



But among all the books I've read this year, The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August by Claire North (see here) is hands down the best of the bunch. 

The first line is actually one of the last lines, so by posting the first line here, you get a two-fer:

I am writing this for you. My enemy. My friend. You know, already, you must know. You have lost.

North, Claire - The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August 

After that introduction the story starts and starts quickly:
The second cataclysm began in my eleventh life, in 1996. I was dying my usual death, slipping away in a warm morphine haze, which she interrupted like an ice cube down my spine.

Like my favorite sci-fi author, Vernor Vinge (see here), Claire North does and outstanding job of creating a believable alternate universe. In this case it is alternate universes. The crux of the story is that Harry gets to relive his same life over and over. Easily the most intriguing thing I've ever read if only because it makes one think of all the things that person would do differently. The story wanders a bit, jumping back and forth from one life to another but always showing that journey toward the cataclysm. One of the most fun and entertaining books I've read lately. 

I love what must have been the impetus behind the story, finding a religious teaching or obscure idea, interpreting it into modern times and providing a structure and rules to it that make sense and completely engross the reader. Then taking even that a step further and adding a plot, characters and story line that is just as compelling as the world that has been created. 

But still, I loved it most for the thoughts and fantasies it inspired in me. Sure there are those who will disparage the idea that lives can be re-lived just the way you want them, to them I say "pshaw!" And one thing I loved most about this novel is that it showed that those people who you loved and liked in one life continued to be the same people no matter the life you find yourself in. 

So jealous of Harry and his ability to relive his life. I now hope that when I die I wake up and find myself reborn just like he does. 

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

I Wish the US was like Arizona

I'm still doing it. Ten days in and it's still a part of my morning routine.

Did you know that when you're travelling and you're in the eastern time zone and you wake up an hour and half early you're really waking up two and a half hours early? Now I do too.



By the clock I actually woke up forty-five minutes late, but it feels so early since I'm in Baltimore. I wish that the entire US was more like Arizona. Why? I like their time change and time zone policies. I hate the daylight savings time change. I hate time zones more but at least I understand their usefulness in today's modern world, that can't be said of the "spring forward, fall back."

Still, just like I said yesterday, it works (here). I'm up and I'm writing. It may not be great writing but it's writing. We'll sort out whether it's good or bad during the edit phase. For now, I'm just glad I'm writing.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Working

This title has a dual meaning.

First, regarding the Miracle Morning I've been working on for the past couple of weeks (see here and here), . . . yes, it is definitely working. I am waking up early, the tools that the book lays out are effective and yep, after two weeks it is getting much much easier to wake myself up. Even after three days away from the tools since I was camping, waking up early to take on my day is working quite well.

"Working" also means that I am working on my writing. Slowly but surely, mostly due to my waking up early, I am working on my novel. It's not huge swaths of churning out thousands and thousands of words like it used to be when I traveled alot, but it's a couple hundred words at a time. This morning for instance I probably only wrote 700 words, but it's 700 words more than I otherwise would have written.

Another benefit, now that I've churned out those 700 words I'm more ready now to write a few thousand on my trip to Baltimore today. I'm about to spend the next several days in Baltimore. Traditionally I write a ton on trips (see here). I suspect when I add up my word count at the end of the day, 700 will not be my daily limit.

Miracle Morning routine . . . highly recommended.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Day 4 and All is Well

I'm on day 4 of my Miracle Morning routine and it's going quite well. I'm also including some more of the book's techniques called SAVERS . . . Silence, Affirmations, Visualizations, Exercise, Reading, Scribing.



Now, I'm not far enough into the book to talk to four of these, but I hit two of them this morning. I did Silence and Exercise. It wasn't a lot of exercise like the other day, just an early morning dog walk, and instead of having the ear buds in to listen to music, I went with Silence.

Is it working?

First, yes, it's becoming easier and easier to wake up. I find myself to be less rushed and less harried each morning.

Second, with coffee, writing in the morning becomes much much more enjoyable. Right now I'm in the midst of writing a summary. I have a great start on my fourth book and a terrific short story that it's based on, but I don't have an outline or a direction for the book after the first few chapters. Writing out this summary is really helping with that.

I've always been more of a "pantser" than a "planner." I'm a write by the seat of my pants type of guy. But I'm beginning to believe that I need more a plan to write this fourth book, so I'm writing out the summary to figure these things out.

I wrote a hand-written summary the other day that was five or so journal pages, and now I'm typing it up, in the process it's being refined and added to.

So, does the Miracle Morning work? So far so good!

Monday, November 21, 2016

It's Working . . . but I Forgot the Coffee

Woke up again this morning. So far yesterday's key to increasing my WUML have worked. I did all five and now, here I am writing on day two. If anyone else wants to give it a try, I am liking the simplicity but effectiveness of The Miracle Morning (here). What's nice, and a handy marketing trick, is that there are Miracle Morning books for just about every career as you can imagine.


I may have run a bit too long to get much writing done today, but I felt bad for the dog having been in a kennel for the last week so I think I erred on the right side in that case.

I have found that two key tasks are left off the the list of how best to wake up. I did the re-affirmation, I did the alarm clock away from me trick, I got my running clothes out, I brushed my teeth and drank my water. The two tasks that I think I would add are "set your coffee maker" and an addendum to that, or a critical path, "have coffee in the house."

I'm a coffee addict, not because I love the taste, but I think I love it because I have so many wonderful associations with coffee. Without a second thought I can easily say that my favorite memories of my life include coffee. When you're on day two of the Miracle Morning and it's about forty degrees outside and you come inside to write, it would be real nice to have a nice cup of coffee with ya.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Morning Miracle

I am in the midst of reading a book called the Morning Miracle for Writers. It's a self-help book cum writers craft book much like the ones I used to read and review. I've hardly started but so far I'm taking this sucker to heart. It's primary theme of course is to wake up early not only to write but to get a jump on the day. I've started following it's teachings and trying out the five key steps to increasing my Wake Up Motivation Levels (WUML).


First - Affirm to yourself before going to bed that you really will wake up early. This goes along with the philosophy that the last thing you think upon going to bed will be the first thing on your mind when you wake up. Not a hard one to master, but very effective.


Second - The old standby; set the alarm clock far away from the bed. I've heard this many times before, I will now live  by this maxim.


Third - Have ready a full glass of water and drink it when you get out of bed. Not bad for the biology and not hard to do.


Fourth - Brush your teeth first thing. Nothing better to get you awake then brushing teeth.

Fifth - Get dressed. Again, not hard. In my case it will be in workout clothes as I will be adding a sixth.


Sixth - Go for a jog, walk or run with the dog. Get that blood flowing and the brain juices percolating. 


So far I'm one day in, and except for having the dog with me I followed the steps above quite closely. So far so good. The fact that I have also re-started my blog on the same day that I started this exercise of waking up early makes me think it will be a successful enterprise for my writing life as well as my everyday life. 

My first novel, Toe the Line was written in the pre-dawn hours. I woke up almost every morning at 5 AM to crank it out. I've noticed lately my time to write has become less and less easy to find. Sometimes I'll carve out evenings to write but when evening comes I find an excuse not to write. Hopefully going back to morning writing will be just what my writing life needs.  

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

The Stand, Above Average Novel

Finished Reflex and I am now trying to finish my vacation book.

I remember going to Hawaii as a child and enjoying it immensely. My mother enjoyed it immensely too, but what I remember her enjoying the most was a book I was reading at the time called, Norman Schnurman, Average Person (see here). I still remember the title, not just because it has an interesting one, but also becuase on that trip my mother ran out of books to read and had to turn to mine. She loved Norman Schnurman and I remember her telling her friends about the book even after we came home.

I was determined not to run out of books so I took Stephen King's The Stand (see here).

Yet another old favorite (see here) I read the Stand back in high school and loved it. I'm enjoying it again. I took it to Costa Rica in a paperback form. That didn't last and now I'm on the Kindle. It's a long one, and it's been unabridged since I read it the first time, still just as good as I remember. It grabs the reader from the very beginning and off it goes on a wild ride.

“Sally.” 

A mutter. 

“Wake up now, Sally.” 

A louder mutter: leeme lone. 

He shook her harder. 

“Wake up. You got to wake up!” 

Charlie. 

Charlie’s voice. Calling her. For how long? 

Sally swam up out of sleep. 

First she glanced at the clock on the night table and saw it was quarter past two in the morning. Charlie shouldn’t even be here; he should be on shift. Then she got her first good look at him and something leaped up inside her, some deadly intuition. 

Her husband was deathly pale. His eyes started and bulged from their sockets. The car keys were in one hand. He was still using the other to shake her, although her eyes were open. It was as if he hadn’t been able to register the fact that she was awake. 

“Charlie, what is it? What’s wrong?”

King, Stephen - The Stand

Friday, August 5, 2016

"Think Dashiell Hammett meets Lee Child meets John Locke" for FREE

I have just made my latest book, Vapor Trail, free for the next week on Kindle (see here). I've gotten some great reviews. One of the best reads:

This is hard-boiled crime with a military twist. Think Dashiell Hammett meets Lee Child meets John Locke. The protagonist's almost clinical lack of empathy is shocking at first, then the speed at which characters are dispatched becomes a rhythm that draws the reader in, carries you through the plot twists, and dumps you out at the end of the book, determined never to join a military style workout group, ever. A great, quick read, especially if you are a fan of grindhouse movies.



If you have been looking for a free book with some decent reviews, may I suggest Vapor Trail (here). And may I also suggest you let me know what you think? I promise to return the favor.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Back to an Old Friend

The problem with having a favorite author who is no longer around is that once you've read all their stuff, it's hard to go back and enjoy their works in the same way that you enjoyed them the first time around. I'm going back to read an old friend. Dick Francis. One of my many favorite authors. I'm sure I've read Reflex before, but now that I don't remember it, I think now is a great time to go back and reacquaint myself.



The first line isn't too bad considering some of the others (see here):

Winded and coughing, I lay on one elbow and spat out a mouthful of grass and mud. The horse I’d been riding raised its weight off my ankle, scrambled untidily to its feet and departed at an unfeeling gallop. I waited for things to settle: chest heaving, bones still rattling from the bang, sense of balance recovering from a thirty-mile-an-hour somersault and a few tumbling rolls. No harm done. Nothing broken. Just another fall.

Francis, Dick - Reflex

One of the few good things about going back and re-reading novels is that I like to remember where I was when I read them, and think about who I used for the character models and what places I used for the setting. When I was younger and had a very small history of English country houses to pull from, I always used my parent's friends, the Turner's house as the setting for so many of Dick Francis' novels. It's a tudor style home and was the closest I could get to envisioning British homes.

I also like to remember who it was I envisioned in different roles. Whenever I read a Stephanie Plum mystery (see evidence of that guilty pleasure here) I have a very clear image of the real person in my life who I use in that role. She's perfect for it even though she looks nothing like the way Stephanie Plum is described. Same goes for Jack Ryan. Got me a person for that role too. I like to read these old novels and remember who I used. Usually I remember then think to myself, "What were you thinking!"




Monday, August 1, 2016

Well, . . . It Wasn't Dull . . . But Do We Call That Thrilling?

It's well documented that I have a man-crush on Hugh Grant. Don't know why . . .just do. I suspect it's a British accent thing. And if there is a British accent combined with slang, doesn't matter who says it . . .I dig it. I watch "The Great British Baking Championship" right now and I just love their slang. "I'm going give it a whack in the over." When said with a British accent it is an incredibly endearing statement.

Love Actually is one of my little brother's favorite movies. I don't blame him. Lots of British accents in that sucker. If it wasn't for the fact that Keira Knightley looks so much like a fish when she talks, it might be my favorite movie too. The scene I love most is when Hugh Grant is talking to his aide about a secretary and the aide calls the secretary "The Chubby One." Grant says "Hmmmmm, would we call her chubby?"


That's sort of how I feel about Barry Eisler's book, Fault Line (see here). Except I think my review would be, "Hmmmmm, do we call that a techno-thriller?"

The plot is pretty humdrum. A Macguffin in the form of a secret virus cracking software that the government wants and they will kill to get it. Everyone who comes near it or has something to do with it ends up dead. But really it's the story of two brothers, Ben and Alex. Ben the super spy and Alex the tech lawyer. All in all, although not a yawn fest, it just wasn't as good as some of Eisler's other works (see here).

I loved Eisler's work with the John Rain series. I thought the writing was impeccable. Sadly the last few that I've read just aren't as good as his first few (see here). Now, don't get me wrong. It's better than anything Brad Thor has ever thought about producing and as good as any of the Tom Clancy legacy novels that are still being produced. Are they on par with Forsythe? Not quite. 

His first few may have been, but these latest two have been leaving me wanting more.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Thrillers not Dullers

I love thrillers almost as much as I love mysteries. If I had to choose one book, and I was offered a choice between Lawrence Sanders' best mystery and Fredrick Forsyth's best thriller I would probably get stuck in a cognitive loop from which I would never escape. So it's nice to fall into a nice thriller every now and then from an author whose previous work I so admired.



I have just started Fault Line by Barry Eisler (here). I read and loved the John Rain series of books. I thought they were fun to read, extremely well written and innovative for thrillers (see more here). The other books I've read by Eisler are not quite as good as those, but as a winner of  a Barry Award for Best Thriller and a Gumshoe Award for Best Thriller you have to give him some credit. So far, Fault Line is as good if not better than "Gods Eye View" (see here) but still far from as good as any of the John Rain series.

As for first lines (see all here), Fault Line doesn't disappoint:

The last thing Richard Hilzoy thought before the bullet entered his brain was, Things are really looking up.

Eisler, Barry - Fault Line

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Not Sure What I'm Supposed to Like

I'm in California this week. Specifically, right now, I'm in Longbeach just south of LA. I was up near Oakland earlier in the week and got to stay smack dab in the middle of the area I used for the setting for my third book (see here), just near Concord, CA. I think that area is pretty, the bay area. Down here, in LA and south of LA, I'm not too sure what I'm supposed to be impressed with.


I'm currently reading a book about how to write mysteries, a book on the craft of writing. A few years ago I had a pledge to read one book on the writing craft for every two fiction books (see here). I'm re-starting that project under slightly different terms. This latest book began with a chapter on setting. One of the elements of mysteries that this author of the first piece focused on was setting. He stated that a mystery writer must choose either LA or New York for the setting. (I'm not too sure how seriously I should take this book). Having been to New York last year and having read so many Lawrence Sanders novels that took place in New York, I can understand using that city as a setting. LA? I don't see the appeal.

I understand the noir aspect of LA but I think that time has come and gone. I can also understand the glitz and glamour of the city, but for the most part LA is just dirty, busy, and self involved.

I'm sure that there are places here that I've yet to suss out, and I'm also sure that many people will say, "You live in Houston! Houston is just a dirtier, hotter, more humid LA that is on a disgusting Gulf rather than on the Pacific." They'd be right. But I don't have my settings in Houston. It's boring as a setting.

Long and short, I don't understand the LA fascination. New York, sure. LA, still not buying it.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Yet Another One Where I Can't Wait for the Next One

Despite the dissonance involved in the title, I loved We're All Damaged by Matthew Norman. As I have finished it, and as I like to catalog last lines (see here) as well as first (see here), I offer the below.



This line occurs after the main character is trying again (don't want to give too much away) and is with the new girl. Having worked through problems like the main character has, I agree with the thought and the sentiment in the last line.

“It’s all so pretty,” she says. “But it’s kind of scary, too.” 

And she’s right. It’s absolutely terrifying.

Norman, Matthew - We're All Damaged


We're All Damaged is alot like About a Boy. Loved reading About a Boy. It was lively, engaging, a bit surreal, funny and best of all the somewhat boring ending that occurred in the book was souped up a bit for the movie. I can see the same thing happening with We're All Damaged. The climactic scene for the action in this novel, that involves a booted motorcycle, a dented pickup, boxer shorts and NWA rap, could use a bit of fine tuning. Other than that, the book was a wonderful sojourn for the lonely, love forlorn and those going through difficult relationships.

The only thing . . . it may only speak to guys, so be careful ladies. My review may not transfer across gender lines.

So why the odd title to this post? Well, I read Matthew Fitzimmon's first book, The Short Drop (see here) and I loved it. I even said I couldn't wait for his next book. The same hold true for Matthew Norman.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

NaNo Ideas 2016 Edition

So, I'm writing my fourth novel and for the most part I'm basing it on a short story I wrote several years ago about a "revenge fantasy." It was more than any other story, a release of frustration on my part about an aspect of my family (if you'd like a quick read . . . you can find it here).


I have a dilemma. There is a perfectly good motivation in the short story. It makes sense for what the reader knows about the characters. Can it be expanded and would it make as much sense in the novel format? I think so. The problem is that I have stumbled upon what I think may be an even better plot and character motivation and I'm wondering if I should scrap the old, keep with the old and safe the new for a potential novel number five, or try and blend the two together.

I remember reading Stephen King's On Writing (here) and although I hated it, I do remember a nugget or two of good advice from the book. I remember him writing about how he liked being able to always whip out a book in the doctor's office or on the bus and always trying to move forward in his reading and therefore in his writing. That he was always chewing away on his characters and plots and writing. And this I remember well, he wrote, if you aren't trying to always think about and make your writing better, why are you a writer? (or something to that effect).




Nevertheless, I was in one of those moments when I was chewing on my plot when this better idea about a murder came up. I think though the decision is a pretty easy one. This new one is more complex, more deliciously nuanced and it wouldn't do to try and blend them. I'll save the short story sniper plot for next time.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Kindle Editions

I subscribed to Kindle Unlimited so for a small sum every month I get free books, as many as I want, only ten at a time, and only from a certain selection. It's not that bad a gig for a guy who reads quite a bit. I betcha I've saved close to a hundred bucks thanks to Kindle Unlimited. All of my books are a part of Kindle Unlimited, so you Unlimited folks can go out there and get them for free (see here, here, and here).



There is also Kindle Audio. This is the audio version of all the books that I get. It's basically Audible.com linked up with Kindle. I use Audible some. Not as much as I would like, but some.

There's the definitions too. If I have a question about a word, all I need to do is highlight it and BOOM, there's  the definition. Or if I'd like to see what other people are highlighting or noting all I have to do is turn that option on.

There a lot of great things about Kindle, there's also a whole lot they've left on the table, and not just for the reader, there's a lot missing for the author too.

When I first got my Kindle I was not as impressed as I hoped. I blogged about it (here) and brought up many things that I thought could be done better. Why isn't there "Kindle Soundtrack" that plays music while you read? Why isn't there "Kindle Interactive" that allows you to quickly see maps and photos of the things the reader is reading about? I remember when I was reading Shogun I really wanted to see a map of Japan. Nope. I had to go find the map that was in the book and that wasn't an easy navigation.

What about Kindle Auto Edition. What would that be? Well, I know that there are parts of my newest novel that could have used a bit more of an edit. How do I know that? Well a couple of my favorite readers let me know about them. One of my newest readers actually compiled a list of all the edits she felt should have been made before the release and sent them to me (she got a huge Starbucks gift card and free copies of all my other books for her efforts).

My problem? Why can't I upload my changes and have those changes automatically be pushed out to all the editions of my novel that have been bought? It would act as an update. By the time I push them out it might be too late, but better late than never right?

So, hurry up Amazon and get that Kindle Auto Edition going. Those of us out here who don't edit well the first time could really use it.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Stumble Upon

When I was in San Diego last year we stumbled upon a truly incredible Italian restuarant. We weren't looking for an Italian restaurant, no one had recommended it, but when we sat down on their patio, and met our waiter we knew we were in for something incredible. The food was amazing, the service exemplary, the price was reasonable and the entire thing was the perfect experience. Pure serendipity. 



This is what has happened with We're All Damaged by Matthew Norman (here). I've only just started the book but already I can't stop reading it. It's fast paced, witty, light, and fun. It reminds me of a book I read many years ago which I also loved, Sellavision by Augusten Burroughs (here). 

What I love most about this novel so far is that there are times I'll be reading it and I will think, "wouldn't it be neat if he . . ." then the author does that very thing. Or worse I'll think, "Awe man! I should have thought of that and written that." Still, it's fun to read a book that speaks to you and that you just stumbled upon for no better reason than it happened to be free as a part of the Kindle Unlimited program. I don't read much comedy, I rarely find it that funny. Nice to see it done well here.

I love cataloging first lines as we all know, so it's nice to see Mr. Norman's offering. I've clipped almost the whole first page because I love the way it sets the scene.

It’s scary how many details I remember about the night Karen left. 

That’s the thing I hate most about my brain, the way it stores and catalogs things, all this dumb shit on a giant hard drive in my head, so I’m forced to obsess over it all like a crazy person. 

Here’s a perfect example. 

Our waiter had a button stuck to his apron that said “Ask Me about Bacon Time!” Why in the hell would I remember that? He had to have been wearing, like, thirty buttons— they always do— but that’s the one I remember. He brought us our food, I saw the button, and I wondered if he was ever tempted to wear it outside of work, like with jeans and a T-shirt, just hanging out with his friends. 

Hey, everybody— you guys— ask me about Bacon Time! 

There was an old couple at the table next to ours drinking these enormous novelty margaritas, like a pair of drunks on a cruise. The lady kept touching her husband’s hand across the table. It was nice. I remember thinking that. They wore matching Velcro sneakers. 

“Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go” by Wham! was playing. Blast from the past, I know, but talk about a jagged little piece of pop music irony. I suggest Googling it. It’s the single most upbeat fucking thing in the history of recorded music. In five thousand years, archaeologists will unearth it on someone’s long-lost computer. Jesus, were these primitive people really that happy? they’ll ask in their high-tech future language. 

Karen was wearing her green sweater, the one I got her for her birthday. She really loves green. Green throw pillows. Green socks. She painted an accent wall green in our dining room once when I was away. It was kind of weird— her green obsession— but I went with it, because she was my wife. I saw the sweater on one of those creepy headless mannequins at the Gap, and I knew she’d love it. 

Here’s the worst detail of all— worse than Wham! even, if you can believe it. It all happened at Applebee’s.

Norman, Matthew -We're All Damaged 

I like the way he's taken so many seemingly normal things in suburban life and arranged them into his breakup to be completely absurd and revealing at the same time. 


Monday, June 27, 2016

Running Blind Does Some Unfair Things

Although I liked the book for the same reason I liked the other Reacher books (see here) I've read, in Running Blind (here), Lee Child does pull some tricks that are unfair to the reader.



These books are fun and simple, I've said that before. So I wasn't too surprised that I was able to solve the mystery just before the dupes in the book. I like Reacher books because they're alot like the television show House. A pompous, kind of jerk guy who takes a lot of guesses and uses his brain to solve mysteries. What I didn't like was that at several times Lee Child actually added material to deliberately throw the reader off.



I don't mind a bit of subterfuge on the part of the author but showing things from the supposed killer's perspective, having the supposed killer have items that only the killer would have then later just dropping that in liue of a different killer, just isn't fair. It's false and wrong. I don't do it in my world building and don't care for authors that do. I expect more from Child even if I don't expect all that much to begin with.

Still, fun to read.

Those that read this blog know that I love compiling lists of first lines (here) and lines about the morning (here). I also like last lines (here).

They left their empty glasses on the window ledge and threaded their way through the knots of people. Everybody watched them to the door, and then turned back to their quiet speculations.

Child, Lee - Running Blind

Friday, June 24, 2016

Angel of Death at Work

I think I am the "Angel of Death" of my workplace. That sounds like a bad thing, and to those that are fired, it probably is. Very much is. But it would be worse if it was intentional. Right now it's not intentional so I just look like a jamoke.



Several years ago I went into my buddies office to talk about the layoffs that were going on. "Man," I said, "I'm glad we survived."

Two days later he was gone. Just Boom! Gone.

Then a year or so later I saw a guy on the elevator leaving early on a Friday. I said, "Leaving early? Hoping to get out of here before they decide to fire you?" It was a horrible joke, made more horrible because he'd just been let go.

It happened again a few months later. This time it was a young lady from work. I'm notoriously bad about talking to the ladies at work. So I was just trying to make a light-hearted joke about the box of things in her hands and cleaning out ones desk. I should have paid more attention to the context clues and less attention to my jokes to cute girls. She was in the process of cleaning out her desk.

Then just Monday, my buddy Christian, he was gone from his office. I thought he had been fired. I found him a few offices down and told him how happy I was that he hadn't been fired. He was fired the next morning.



It's becoming an issue. No one wants to talk to me at work anymore. They're afraid for their jobs I guess.

I wrote a short story similar to this. It comes from my brother's crazy mind. My brother has helped come up with several great story ideas (a sample here). The idea was actually a mixture of two different ideas . . . a short story cocktail if you will.

Bill wanted me to write a story about a man who sees his ex-wife outside an office building one day and in the spur of the moment decision kills her and gets away with it (as an aside, his wife was not happy to hear that this was his story idea). My brother wanted a Twilight Zone-y story about a man who once he has committed a murder begins to realize that he must keep murdering people or huge catastrophic events occur.

I started writing it and had the main character kill the ex-wife. He goes out, tries to forget what he's done, get's incredibly drunk, passes out, he wakes up the next day, lives out his day, no murder this time and the following day there's a school bus of children who have all died in a horrible explosion. He thinks nothing of it that, but the next day someone who witnessed him kill his wife comes to blackmail the main character. He kills the blackmailer, another night, this time its a restless one, and then it's back to normal. The following day a plane falls out of the sky and everyone dies. The plan was that he continue to live this life where he is forced to continue to commit murder to keep horrible things from occurring and the reader is left to wonder if it's really happening or if it's all in his mind, produced by the guilt of that first murder of his wife.

It's not finished. Work in progress. I hit pause after the murder of the witness. The main character still hasn't figured out the pattern. I didn't think there was anywhere to go with it. I also thought that the deaths needed to be more personally affecting to the main character. Maybe it's his parents that die, or it's his sister or brother.

Still, I think this Angle of Death at Work as legs if I just mull it over a bit. I'm thinking of bringing it up to Bill and my brother to see if another cocktail emerges.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Always a Good Way to Start the Day

For no reason whatsoever I was tooling around on Goodreads (here).



Actually, there was a reason. Someone friended me on Goodreads. I don't "get" Goodreads. Maybe I'm too much of a loner reader. Maybe I need to make more friends, but I don't get the idea or the communications stream of Goodreads. That being said, I use it to promote my books, and that's where this blog comes in.

I logged in today because someone wanted to be my friend . . . you can never have too many and they can always surprise you (see here) . . . and what did I find? I glowing review of Vapor Trail.

When I looked for reviews I went through a review company. The reader who left this review found my book through that company. It's a pretty good review (see here).

This engrossing read is Dick Hannah's third novel about Jeremy Stubbins, a former military special operator and now a security contractor of a company. The story opens innocuously---Jeremy has agreed to meeting up with a military comrade from the past, and then immediately, his life begins to spiral out of control. When Jeremy meets Wick, he regrettably brings his brother-in-law, an action he sorely regrets, and which starts all the suspenseful action. The atmosphere becomes charged with dynamic forces, and Stubbins is forced to deal with all: the dubious suicide of his boss and friend Andrea, the tragic and suspicious traffic death of his war comrade Wick, the descent of Jensen into near madness by creating a conspiracy blog attracting not only attention but perilously putting his family in harm's way. Jeremy feels responsible to solve Andrea's death, protect his sister and nephew, stop Jensen's insanity and guard a secret from his past. Mr. Hannah is skilled in creating characterizations and detailing plot and setting so they become essential elements in this thriller. Thunbs UP!

Skye Skye

Well I say thanks very much Skye, I'm so glad you enjoyed it. And to those who have yet to read it, take Skye's advice and go pick one up and let every know what you think.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Consistency and Prolificness

One thing I will say about Lee Child (here), the man writes alot. The other thing I will say about him is that I think I could write as well as or better than he does.


There are some books that I read where I sit back and kind of give up on writing. Alot of Lawrence Sanders books are like that. I think to myself, "There's no way I can write that well." Same with James Dickey or Pat Conroy. They are so poetic in their writing I feel that I could never get to that level so I just stop writing for a while.

Then there are those books that I read and I think to myself, "I can do that! Heck I can write better than that."

That's what I think when I read a Lee Child novel. Like I said yesterday (here) his books are a bit formulaic and easy to read. The thing that is impressive is that he's built a brand and he continues that brand with verve.

I'm only on my fourth novel, and barely started on it. He's written twenty-one. Now he has twenty years on me, but I better hit high gear real soon if I hope to catch up.

I haven't been sitting around. I have a collection of short stories I'm sitting on, a thriller novel rough draft I'm happy with and a couple of romance cum literary fiction novels that are in various states of completion. But still there is number four sitting her staring me in the face each day.

Lee Child doesn't just give me that feeling that I can do that, he also inspires me to get up and write everyday, to just plug away a little bit at a time and eventually I'll get there. Perhaps I need to embrace the formula and the pedantic. It seems like that's what gets the novels produced.

Monday, June 20, 2016

From Thick to Thin and from Liam to Dwayne

I've read a few really thick books lately. First there was Uris and The Haj (here). Then there was Lawrence Sanders' The Third Deadly Sin (here). Finally Hickory Dickory Doc (here). Please don't judge me too harshly when I reveal the depths to which I've fallen in my next selection.



Another Jack Reacher Novel, by Lee Child. This time it's Running Blind (here). It's not that bad, I suppose. It's not smut . . .is it? Sure it's formulaic. And yes they remind me of westerns (see here), and they're simple and sometimes plodding and just plain silly, but they're fun to read, particularly after that summer reading list I provided up in the first paragraph.

One thing I find interesting is that since talking to my buddy at work a few months back, I've changed who I imagine as the main character. It should come as no surprise to readers of this blog (that means you, Mom) . . .  I suppose I should say "reader of this blog" rather than "readers"  . . . that I substitute people I know into the place of characters when I read books. Reading a series makes this particularly fun. I have a very clear idea in my mind who Stephanie Plum and Lula are (here). I have a terrific person who represents Archy McNally. I had a good one for Reacher, then the movie came along and ruined it all.

Reacher is described as huge, extremely tall, even though the characteristics and dimensions that Lee Child uses hardly makes him seem that way. I think he wrote once that Reacher was six-three, two fifty. Coming from a guy who is six-two, two forty, I hardly think of myself in the same way that Reacher thinks of himself, and I'm just an inch and ten pounds short. For a long while I thought of Liam Neeson. Have you seen Taken? He would be a great Reacher. Then the movie people cast Tom Cruise as Reacher and everyone who ever read a Reacher novel thought it was horrid casting.

One of my work friends said to me in passing one day, "They should have cast the Rock" and Boom! It was an epiphany. The Rock would have been perfect. So now I've gone through an evolution in my reading of Reacher novels. From Liam to Dwayne.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Surprising Friends

Last night I had the opportunity for one of my irregular guy's night out poker nights. Last time I won almost five hundred dollars. This time I lost three hundred. Win some, lose some right? But I found something out that was surprising and my mind was worth the three hundred dollars I lost.



I am in the midst of writing my fourth novel. No name yet, but I have several themes that I'm exploring. I think what I liked most about my third novel, Vapor Trail (see here) was that I had far more and more complex themes than I did in my first and second novels. Among the themes I wrote about in Vapor Trail was the idea of the ends justifying the means. That's an obvious one. Another was the nature of conspiracies to overwhelm a person's life for the negative. There was a return to civilian life theme as well as a nine circles of Hell. Lots more depth than either Toe the Line (here) or On the Edge (here).

Some of the themes I hope to write about in this fourth book include writing about Anthony (see here) and writing about a guy at the end of his life who realizes he's not leaving much behind. There will be more, but that leaving something behind will probably be a major theme.

At poker last night one of the guys wished me a happy father's day. Keep in mind these are guys I see maybe once every three months. They play at least once a month, I just don't get there as much as I'd like. So, although I know them well by now, we aren't "friends" in the classic sense of the word. Secondly, even tough I like to think I break even, I probably lose more than most of the core group of players, so I suspect they only invite me cause I'm an easy mark. Still, the point is I know them, but only in a poker sense.

What stunned me was that this "poker friend" stopped himself when he said he hoped I had a nice Father's Day and said, "Oh, sorry man. Forgot about your Dad."

You see he remembered that I had to miss a poker night because of my father's funeral this past year (here). This is a guy who I had thought was just a passing acquaintance, in the life then out again, someone who might be tone deaf about that aspect of my life, and instead he was more in tune than most others in my life. I look forward to using this as a theme in my next novel. Perhaps the main character will be surprised by the end of the book that he has more friends than he previously realized.

When my father passed away I wrote a little blog post and in it I talked about this same surprisingly aspect of friendship and how friends will pop up in places that you didn't expect. I planned on making it a theme back then as well. I suppose I should be happy that I'm thematically consistent.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Summer Chills - Late Spring Dulls

For several years I've made a point to go to our local theater's "Summer Chills" series (see here) which always features an Agatha Christie play. I remember being, and still am, stunned by the fact that each year there was a new play and I had never heard of it. Many times it's not quite as good as I hope. Such is the way I feel about Hickory Dickory Dock (see here).


This is one of those many hundreds of Agatha Christie novels that she produced that I would bet most people have never heard. Good thing too. It's a throw away novel in that you read it, in some way you must force yourself to plow on, and afterward there may be some memory of the fact that you read it, but it's vague and you wish you could forget it. It just wasn't very good.

Since I love cataloging first lines, and have a whole section of this blog devoted to it (here), I'll leave the sample from Hickory Dickory Dock below:

Hercule Poirot frowned. 

“Miss Lemon,” he said. 

“Yes, M. Poirot?” 

“There are three mistakes in this letter.” 

His voice held incredulity. For Miss Lemon, that hideous and efficient woman, never made mistakes. She was never ill, never tired, never upset, never inaccurate. For all practical purposes, that is to say, she was not a woman at all. She was a machine— the perfect secretary. She knew everything, she coped with everything. She ran Hercule Poirot’s life for him, so that it, too, functioned like a machine. Order and method had been Hercule Poirot’s watchwords from many years ago. With George, his perfect manservant, and Miss Lemon, his perfect secretary, order and method ruled supreme in his life. Now that crumpets were baked square as well as round, he had nothing about which to complain.

Christie, Agatha - Hickory Dickory Dock: A Hercule Poirot Mystery

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Completely Complete . . . Sigh

My favorite authors when I was younger were probably Stephen King (here) and Louis L'amour (here). Stephen King is good a long, interesting yarns. Louis has that black, white, no moral relativism, man against man and nature story.



Once I hit my teens I think I fell in love with Dick Francis (here). Had never been to a horse race, but reading about his adventures around the horse racing world was spectacular to me. Also, I loved the way the story didn't necessarily have to do with racing, racing was sometimes tangential.

Then, later, as an adult, I ran across Archy McNally. What a fun character. But I ran out of them quickly and for more than a decade I was Lawrence Sanders-less.

It wasn't until just a few years ago that I did a bit of research and found out that Lawrence Sanders (here) wrote some much more gritty and more interesting detective stories with New York City as the backdrop. I fell immediately in love with them.

Sadly, I think I've read my last of these.

I just finished The Third Deadly Sin (here) and although it wasn't the best, I sure do love the way Sanders writes. I'll miss being able to read things like:

SOME DAYS LASTED FOREVER; some were never born. She awoke in a fury of expectation, gone as soon as felt; the world closed about. Once again life became a succession of swan pecks. 

Zoe Kohler, blinking, woke holding a saggy breast, soft as a broken bird. The other wrist was clamped between her thighs. She was conscious of the phlegmy light of late winter, leaking through drawn blinds.

Outside, she knew, would be a metal day, no sun, and a sky that pressed. The air would smell of sulfur. She heard traffic drone and, within the apartment house, the dull thumps of morning doors. In the corner of her bedroom a radiator hissed derisively.

Sanders, Lawrence - The Third Deadly Sin

So, now that I've read my last, I'll  be sad for a bit. But, it was serendipity that lead me to the Edward X Delaney series in the first place, perhaps a bit of serendipity will come again and I'll find some more.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Commitment Complete!

Awhile back I started the idea of reading "commitment novels" every now and then. Trash and pulp and thrillers are fun, but a good commitment book, a Charles Dicken's, a Tolstoy, a book that you really have to sink your teeth into for a really long time, . . . those are sometimes necessary.


My latest commitment was The Haj by Leon Uris. It wasn't bad, but boy it was nowhere near as good as Armageddon (see here). Uris has a wandering, tangential style, but in the case of The Haj, I just never got around to identifying with the main characters. I hated them all the entire way through the book. That's no way to read a book.

I knew going in that it was going to be a slog, but boy I had no idea just how hard it was going to be. I have to admit, I skimmed the last 20 pages just to be done with it.

Now . . .on to TRASH!

Released!

I always said I wouldn't seriously promote my writing and my novels until I had three under my belt. I don't know why I came up with the magic number of three, I suppose I just felt that was a decent sounding number. I've finally finished my third novel and I've gotten some good reviews, so now would be the time (buy it here!)



Leah, who has reviewed two of my books, wrote:

"Vapor Trail is a fast-paced and interesting mystery with a great lead character," and "I read Dick Hannah’s first book Toe The Line a few years ago and though I generally enjoyed it, I had trouble liking any of the characters. I didn't have that problem with Vapor Trail though since I found it much better and I’m glad I had the chance to read it."

Not too bad if you ask me. I'll take that criticism. Then I read this and was quite happy:

"I happen to love shows/series like NCIS and Strike Back, so it was easy for me to get behind a character like Jeremy Stubbins who is portrayed as analytical and military-minded – very much like the characters in these shows. The novel is written from his perspective so you’re clued in on what he’s thinking in every scene."

I liked hearing that. 

I got a second review from  Jeanne Richardson. Also a 4 out of 5 stars. Jeanne wasn't as verbose but she wrote:

"The storyline was interesting, just not what I was expecting. I had a hard time completing the book, don’t get me wrong it is a good book, it’s just not the type I normally read. If you like stories with conspiracy theories then you’ll truly enjoy the book."

I would love if you read it too and left a review. I've dropped the price for the next week or so. If you'd like to get a complimentary copy for a review let me know and we can see what we can do.

It feels good to have three books in the personal library. What's best is what Leah said in her review. She liked Vapor Trail more. I think each successive book has shown improvement as a writer. Toe the Line read like a first time novel. On the Edge was more polished. Vapor Trail is my best work yet. Still there is room to grow and I'm already writing number 4, (to order any of these novels, see here).


I would love to know what you think of my novels if you get a chance. Feel free to drop me a line when you buy it and then again once you are done.

Happy Reading!

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Could Be My Last

Wildfire (here) could very well be the last novel I read by by Nelson DeMille, I'm at that crossroads where you have given an author the chance a couple of times and he's just not coming through for you.



I remember well how much I enjoyed that opening sequence in The Lion's Game (here) about the airliner filled with dead folks landing in New York and how the antagonist, The Lion, escapes despite all of the police presence. It's a great opening. I was rapt with attention.

Sadly I also remember how poorly that book ended. Beginning, great. Middle, meh. End, horrid.

I read the review for Wildfire before buying it I saw that one reviewer had written something about how it seemed like Nelson DeMille had given up by the end of the book and just wrapped up the damn thing to be done with it. It all came to and end too abruptly and too succinctly. I wrote about this as a good thing a couple of posts ago (here) saying that if a reader thinks it ends too soon, it could be that they just want the book and the story to continue. Still true. Sadly, it could also mean that the story just stinks. I think that Wildfire falls into this second category.

It's one thing if the author starts the novel with a spectacular opening sequence as The Lion's Game did. It's another if the opening sequence is boring, plodding and silly with the villain explaining his plan to take over the world while sitting around a dinner table as he did in Wild Fire.

Lastly, it was way too James Bond movie silly, with secret, underground, hidden layers, a ruthless villain and his silent body guard, an army of mercenaries and a plan to nuke the entire world. It left me dumbfounded that the person who wrote it could still be taken seriously by anyone after they had read it.

I liked The Lion's Game, enjoyed Nightfall, but so found everything about Wild Fire so reppellant as a reader and author that I doubt I'll try another DeMille book.


Tuesday, March 8, 2016

First Line from and Old Friend is a Dan Browner

I like Nelson DeMille novels (here). I especially like John Corey novels. I don't know why. John Corey and I would definitely not get along in real life. I don't like Yankee jackasses, . . . nope, not even Donald Trump. Still I like Nelson DeMille's John Corey so I'm looking forward to reading Wild Fire (here) despite the first line which seems lacking in verve.



I’m John Corey, former NYPD homicide detective, wounded in the line of duty, retired on three-quarter disability (which is just a number for pay purposes; about 98 percent of me still functions), and now working as a special contract agent for the Federal Anti-Terrorist Task Force. 

The guy in the cubicle facing me, Harry Muller, asked, “You ever hear of the Custer Hill Club?” 

“No. Why?” 

“That’s where I’m going this weekend.” 

“Have a good time,” I said. 

“They’re a bunch of rich, right-wing loonies who have this hunting lodge upstate.” 

“Don’t bring me any venison, Harry. No dead birds, either.”

DeMille, Nelson - Wild Fire

It's not just a lame opening, it's also a tad of a "Dan Browner" (see here). What's a Dan Browner? Go look at the link. It means he opens like having a guy look in a mirror and describe himself for the reader. "I'm John Corey, former NYPD homicide detective . . . ." That's a Dan Browner.

Fifty pages in and it hasn't gotten much better. Come on DeMille, pull it out of this nose dive soon!

Friday, March 4, 2016

NaNo Info Graphic

There is a great link (here) and shown below from Pinterest. Having been in many NaNoWriMo events over the years (see here), I can relate to much of what is shown in the little info graphic.

I agree with the 76% who say not to edit as you go. NaNo works best as a "brain dump." I just write as much and as fast as I can. Sure the final product is completely different, but the final product is also twice as long, so it's naturally never going to look like the first draft.

I was surprised to find that 67% of the surveyed folks found that the time of day they wrote was crucial. For me, whenever I could find time to write was a blessing. Maybe that will change as my kiddos age.

Who the hell are these 12% who wrote on the toilet, or 9% who wrote in the car? I hope they weren't driving.


Review: The God's Eye View . . . Not as Good as the "Rain View"

I've read quite a few books by Barry Eisler (see here), most of them as a part of the John Rain series. I thought they were fun because they were outside the norm. First, it used a first person point of view for the protagonist. Secondly, John Rain was a bit of an anti-hero; former CIA assassin now a freelancer, half western, half oriental. Lastly, all of the books were filled with what I thought were some wonderfully poetic writing. Good to find that Barry Eisler's non- John Rain books are as good. Not better, but as good.



The God's Eye View (here) is a pretty fun book. The cast of characters are all quite diverse and fun to know more about. One of the main characters, Marvin Manus, is like John Rain in that he is a unique assassin, in this case he's deaf. The main female character too is an interesting character. I think he spends a bit too much time going into the back ground and depth of character of the villain who I found to be the least engaging of the bunch, but still, it was all worthwhile.

What I didn't find? Those poetic lines that I like so much. In Hard Rain (here) Eisler wrote:

I moved deeper into the comforting gloom, along a stone walkway covered in cherry blossoms that lay like tenebrous snow in the glow of lamplights to either side. Just days earlier, these same blossoms had been celebrated by living Tokyoites, who came here in their drunken thousands to see reflected in the blossom's brief and vital beauty the inherent pathos of their own lives. But now the blossoms were fallen, the revelers departed, even the garbage disgorged by their parties efficiently removed and discarded, and the area was once again given over only to the dead.

The prose in The God's Eye View as a tad more pedantic and less flowery. I've come to expect a bit more from Eisler. In the past he has reminded me of James Dickey (Deliverance) and Pat Conroy (The Lords of Discipline) who I felt also have more poetic quality to their writing. The God's Eye View offered none of that.

All in all, it was a good thriller. Fun to read and worth the short time it takes to consume. Still, I'm looking forward to getting back to the John Rain series.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

This First Line Gets a Big Fat "Meh"

Not an idicator of the roller coaster that is the rest of the book, Barry Eisler's The God's Eye View (here) starts off with a whimper by discussing an old man dreaming of fishing waking up to his secure phone.


General Theodore Anders was dreaming of marlin fishing when the secure phone rang on the bed stand next to him. He sat up immediately, concerned but not unduly so. He’d been awakened plenty of times over the course of his career, and by much worse than a telephone. 

He blinked and reflexively scanned the room by the dim light of the bedside digital alarm clock. His wife, Debbie, continued snoring softly beside him. She’d learned to tune out NSA’s intrusions almost immediately after he’d been appointed director. If it were an internal problem, he wouldn’t be able to tell her. If the problem were external, she’d see it on the news soon enough. Either way, she didn’t want to know, or at least not before she had to. She was a good woman. 

He cleared his throat and picked up the handset before the unit could ring a second time. In the army, he’d learned to impress his superiors with an image of constant readiness. The habit had stayed with him long since his superiors had become his subordinates.

Eisler, Barry - The God's Eye View

Don't be fooled though or put off. Well worth the time to read the rest of the lines, even if the first aint that great.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Am I Really Going to Read a Cat Mystery?

Upon just reading the title I poo-pooed it immediately (see here). The article is In the World of Cat Fiction, Fur Flies Over Whether Stars Get Speaking Roles Cat Mystery! by Jennifer Maloney and at first I thought Pshaw! How silly. But then I read this:

Ms. Murphy’s talking Joe Grey leaves evidence in squad cars. He also has the police chief on speed dial. In Ms. Fry’s series, a thieving tomcat named Rags silently collects business cards, photographs and a pouch of diamonds—clues to murders, kidnappings and a jewelry heist.



Now I'm intrigued! It sounds like fun to build a mystery with a non-talking protagonist. 

For a long while I had an idea for a mystery that included a young kiddo and an old guy shut in. He would sit in his wheelchair at home and hear the mystery from the young kids perspective. Hearing about this about cats solving mysteries makes me wonder if I didn't take it far enough. Maybe the wheelchair bound sleuth should be a victim of stroke and although he retains all the faculties of his mind he can't relate them to anyone easily.

Sadly, as all this was swirling around in my head I read this:

Once, during a mystery conference panel, “I got up there and said, ‘Cats that speak, they’re an abomination.’ ” Then she turned tail and wrote a book about a talking ghost cat.

After reading that, I'm beginning to think these folks are just a bunch of wackos.

I went to a writing class/editing class for one of my first novels. Surreal doesn't begin to describe the experience. It was in an old dilapidated home in the middle of nowhere. When I went in I met the editor. He was a huge, seventy year old man, obese really, and he waddled around his home, barefoot, in a pair of ratty old boxer shorts and a grey wife beater t-shirt throughout the entire time I was there. I was immediately mad at myself for buying five sessions up front.

I would have thought this was some sort of strange "come on" except there were three of us there and the other two writers found nothing strange about this attire from their mentor. We all sat down, and were offered "Lean Cuisines" by the editor (I have no idea why) and started reviewing our writing. One writer there, who was quite proud of his work and went first, was writing about a mystery/thriller about a missing girl from the point of view of the blood hound who was tracking her.

I have read Watership Down and many other books of fantasy and sci-fi were there is something other than a human providing the context and being the main character. I have to tell you, it takes a lot more talent than I thought to pull it off and be taken seriously. Sadly, my writing partner did not have that talent. Secondly, the boxer shorted editor did not have the talent to help him either.

Meeting this editor, sitting around that kitchen table with the flap of his boxers falling open at inopportune times, the dusky, dirty bare feet and the Lean Cuisines, and the book about the kidnapping being told from the POV of Hank the Bloodhound, I'm surprised I stayed with this witting thing.

Still there is obviously a market out there for this kind of thing, so who knows. I plan on looking to see if there is a free one on the Kindle just so I can get some idea of what a cat might say.


Tuesday, February 23, 2016

First Novel but NOT the Last (I hope)

I’m going to adding Matthew FitzSimmons to my list. What list? The list that includes Dick Francis, Lawrence Sanders, Frederick Forsythe and just a few others. My list of favorite authors for thrillers. This book I just finished by FitzSimmons was well worth the read and well worth looking for and waiting for a next one.

The characters in The Short Drop (here), were fun to read about. The story was twisty and turney and fun and thrilling . . . just what you want from a thriller. Had me guessing quite a bit (and actually, due to one or two holes still in the story, I’m still guessing), and it was fun to read from the beginning.

I even liked the last line! And that's a rarity (see here)

Out in the dark, he heard the creak and slam of a screen door.

FitzSimmons, Matthew -  The Short Drop

Just like with my books I like the idea of educating readers into facets of life that they may not know much about. In my case I chose adventure racing (On the Edge - here) and triathlons (Toe the Line - here). Dick Francis of course uses horse racing. I liked finding out about computer hacking. It wasn’t too heavy on the technical language, and FitzSimmons didn’t get too wrapped up into the nuance. Instead he used it to move the story along.


If I have one critique of this story it would be the end. It came quite abruptly. But what can I say . . . a reviewer has said the same thing about my own book (see here). I have decided to take that critique as a compliment. It wasn’t that the reader was upset by the abrupt ending, they were upset by the end itself. They wanted my story to keep going on and on and on. That’s how I felt about this book. 


Friday, February 5, 2016

Another First Line

I have a running list of first lines that I come across (see here). Some are labeled as "good first lines" (see here) other's get the label "bad" (see here). This list came about because of the heavy emphasis that publishers and readers place on first lines. As an aside . . . I also was compiling a list of "last lines" (see here), but the value of that list petered out due to just how rotten so many last lines are, so I kinda stopped that list a while back.

Today's first line comes from a novel called The Short Drop by Matthew FitzSimmons (see here).


Gibson Vaughn sat alone at the bustling counter of the Nighthawk Diner. The breakfast rush was in full swing as customers milled about, waiting for a seat. Gibson barely registered the crescendo of knives and forks on plates or the waitress who set his food down. His eyes were fixed on the television mounted behind the counter. The news was playing the video again. It was ubiquitous, part of the American zeitgeist— dissected and analyzed over the years, referenced in film, television shows, and songs. Like most Americans, Gibson had seen it countless times, and like most Americans he couldn’t look away no matter how often it aired. How could he? It was all he had left of Suzanne. 

The beginning of the video was grainy and washed out. The picture stuttered and frames dropped; distorted lines rolled up the screen like waves pounding an undiscovered shore. By-products of the store manager having recorded over the same videotape again and again and again. 

Shot down at an angle from behind the cash register, the footage showed the interior of the infamous service station in Breezewood, Pennsylvania. The power of the video was that it could have been anywhere. Your hometown. Your daughter. Viewed in its entirety, the silent security camera footage was a melancholic homage to America’s most prominent missing girl— Suzanne Lombard. The time stamp read 10: 47 p.m. 

FitzSimmons, Matthew - The Short Drop

Not the best first lines, but not bad either. The story actually becomes quite compelling quite quickly.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Since It's Ground Hog Day I Offer This

In honor of Groundhog Day I found this article from the Daily Beast called How to Write Groundhog Day: 10 Rules for Screenwriters by Danny Rubin (see here), author of one of my favorite movies, Groundhog Day with Bill Murray.

I actually contacted Danny Rubin several years ago to see if I could read his original script. I failed. He was very nice about it all, and it might have been my first contact with a true, professional writer. I think it had to do with the story regarding how long Bill Murray's character was stuck in that one day in the movie (see here). Then I read a great article by Jonah Goldberg in National Review about the script (see here . . . well worth the moment it takes to read it). That lead me to go try and find the original script. No joy.



I do like Rubin's article on writing. He offers some great thoughts including this one under the heading "Writers write. And rewrite."

"...most ideas tend to look fully formed and perfect until you actually try to write them down."

Each of my novels started in my head fully fleshed out. Then, as I began to write them, I realized there wasn't much meat on the bone. It took over a year of writing (and worse, rewriting) to get them even to the state they're in now. Funny how the brain can decieve a fellow in to believing its all done but the writing.

"You don’t have to put a gun to person’s head in order to make the stakes life and death. It can be a spiritual death." 

Rubin writes this when talking about Raising the Stakes. This is a common piece of advice. No one cares if the main character fails and he doesn't get the cheese that he wanted on his cheeseburger. But, if the world is about to explode, if the Pope is about to be assassinated, if an election is about to be stolen or a young girl is about to be murdered, well then all of a sudden the reader gives a damn.

This is actually something I struggle with and have been told as much by my beta readers. I need to stop some time during my writing and think to myself, "how can I make this all a bigger deal."

"When encountering a story issue that is keeping you from moving forward, the tendency is to look to plot for your solutions. How can he have a crowbar with him when he gets to the warehouse? How could she know about the baby at this point in the story? How did the car get from the impound lot to the airport? This kind of logistical thinking can drive you crazy and will often lead to some very convoluted plotting in order to get the result you want."

"Or you could tinker with your character. What skills do they have?  What happened in their background that might make them prepared for the challenge you’ve given them? What are they willing to do?"

This one I really struggle with. Allowing the character to drive the action is super tough. I have a plot and several sub-plots and I force the characters through that plot as if they were cars on a roller coaster track. I don't let the characters determine their own fate and what will happen. Not sure how to go about doing it, but having seen Groundhog Day I can certainly see what Rubin means.

It's great advice, and I love his work. Sure wish I had gotten a chance to see that original screen play. Maybe one day.