Friday, April 30, 2010

e-Publish or e-Perish

The question is. . . when I reach the end of my spreadsheet of potential agents to quesry, what do I do? The answers are many.

First, I place the novel on the shelf while I continue to work on the second novel. Hopefully, when I try to sell that second one, they will ask, "Got anything else?" Then I'll be ready. Albeit, ready with something that has been declined almost 300 times.

Second, I continue to work on the second novel and eventually query the same way I did for this one, but that second time integrate some of the lessons I've learned from this process, AND e-publish the first novel for Amazon Kindle reader.

Third, I completely give up, buy and Xbox 360 and Call of Duty and enjoy life.

You'll notice that except for the third choice (which really is the best choice) the two other choices are similar except for what happens to my novel Toe the Line. I'm leaning toward the e-publishing route.

To that end, I'm hoping to create my website in the next few weeks, complete a final edit of my manuscript, and produce some cover art prior to uploading it to Amazon.

What put this bug in my ear? Well, firstly, I'm coming to the end of the query list. Secondly, Karen McQuestion's interview on Newbies Guide to Publishing by JA Konrath. She went the traditional route. One of her queries paid off, she spent almost two years in pre-production, then was dropped and left right where she had started. She started e-publishing and now has a fan base. Now, I'm not expecting the same results, but I sure would hate to follow that same path to success. I don't want to be in the same place two years from now.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Book Review: To the Nines

Finished To the Nines, a Stephanie Plum novel by Janet Evanovich yesterday. Although this is a “throw-away” mystery, one that I probably won’t carry with me for longer than a day or so, I like this series if only because although the story is not memorable, the characters are. It wasn’t until I read a second one that I realized how much I liked the characters. They’re light, fun, and Evanovich instills them all with a distinct humor which is fun to follow.

I did not note any specific lines that caught my eye while I was reading it, but the author did do something a bit out of the ordinary, both for her and in terms of other stories in the same genre. As the story is coming to an end, and Stephanie is about to be either targeted by the killer, or actually catch her man, the reader starts to notice that Evanovich is running out of pages with which to perform a proper wrap-up. Usually with mysteries you can count on at least a full chapter for the reveal and for the resulting denouement. The closer I got to the end of To the Nines, the more I wondered what was going to happen if only because she was leaving herself so little room to do it. I wonder if this was her intent. It sure heightened my anticipation. The story by itself was simple and not at all surprising.

A bit clever, always cute and funny, but basically I read this in order to clear my head after Shogun. Such a deep themed book as Shogun was demands a lighter than usual follow-on book. Like a light sorbet after a heavy dinner.

One thing I have trouble with, and I find this to be the case in so many books, I've never been to New Jersey, the setting for To the Nines, and have a hard time imagining the area as Evanovich describes it. She describes her neighborhood, the Burg, as a typical Jersey neighborhood. That doesn't help a reader who hasn't any idea what a typical Jersey neighborhood looks like. I think it's sad that so much of the setting is lost based on my own limitations. In Shogun Clavell spends a lot of time building a world for the reader to imagine. To the Nines and other books by Evanovich ask the reader to already know these things, and so I miss out on some of the local color she tries to impart.

Evanovich if nothing else is good with consistency and creating characters that are deeper than her books. Her series is in the fifteen or sixteens by now? Sixteen stories using the same characters? Having those characters continue to be fun, full of life, and worth reading? That can’t be easy to do.

All told To the Nines was another solid offering by an author I find inspiring for her prolific writing and steadfast following. For light, humorous reading with a touch of mystery and engaging characters, Evanovich can't be beat.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

I Guess I'm a Poor Judge for YA Fantasy

Nathan Bransford is conducting an experiment on his blog. He asked volunteers to send in queries for his followers to vote on as if they were agents requesting a manuscript. He randomly selected five from the genre with the most entries. Sadly, YA Fantasy edged out Mystery Suspense, so mine didn’t make it.

What is funny is that one of the entries is a query for one of the Spring Novel Contest entries I read for the Houston Writer’s Guild. I remember specifically reading this entry, and based on the tone and voice of the author I’m fairly certain I know who the writer is.

Now, keep in mind that I am not a YA Fantasy genre lover, but not only did I not vote for this person’s query, but the excerpts of his writing I’ve read I find incredibly banal and poorly written. Due to the fact that his query is smoking the other query entries, and based on the fact that his novel entry (yet another story I judged last year) came in third in the Fall Novel Writing Contest, I’m guessing something about his writing just rubs me wrong. Kinda makes me feel like a dog who growls at a passer-by for no ostensibly reason.

It's strange, although his writing is liked by many (based on the blog's comments) I don’t like the voice, I don’t care for the quirky humor, and it reminds me of the type of writing a Sci-Fi Channel, Trek obsessed, Comic-Con dresser would enjoy.

But, he does seem to make it work. Then again, maybe there are more people out there who want to read about a girl who "though she's pretty sure she must be lying in a hospital somewhere and experiencing the world's wildest coma-induced nightmare, she's soon facing monsters, handsome princes, and evil villains with diabolical plans to take over this very scary world."

Personnally, I just don't see the allure.

It is a Truth that this First Line is Clever

"It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife."

Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Intriguing First Line, But Doesn't Do the Rest of the Book Justice

“The first time Yossarian saw the chaplain he fell madly in love with him.”

Catch-22 - Joseph Heller

Friday, April 23, 2010

How To Write the First Ten Pages

After the seriousness and depth of Shogun, I’ve started reading a light, throw-away, comedy, mystery by Evanovitch, To the Nines. I’ve read a few of her books and they’re fun to read. But, this isn’t a review, this is to discuss the first ten pages discussion that came up a few weeks ago when I was judgeig the novel contest.

The first ten pages of To the Nines is spectacular compared to all of those novel entries. It’s quick, it’s engaging, it’s quirky, and it gives the reader some credit. Everything that the entries weren’t. First, she places the reader in the middle of the action with very little introduction to the character’s lifes. Just enough to let you know the basics. She gives more details later and it works. Secondly, she picks and interesting, albeit somewhat repulsive subject matter. The main character, Stephanie Plum, a bounty hunter, is in the middle of apprehending a man who has decided his best defense against arrest is to get naked and slather Vaseline all over himself. Who wouldn’t want to know how that turns out. It’s original, repulsive and somewhat intriguing. Thirdly, pacing. It’s fast, but she provides enough detail so the reader isn’t lost. I realize it’s been edited a lot, and Evanovich is a professional writer, but still, it was done to perfection. Even the humor, which I find extremely difficult to write, was perfect.

What I like the most is the fact that she gives the reader some credit. She understands that she can’t say everything in the first few pages, so she draws it out throughout the story. A great primer on the importance of the first ten pages.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Figuring out Genres

A discussion has been raging in my head. I would say argument, but I’m not really arguing with myself, instead I’m just trying to nail down my novels genre. I say raging because as much as I tell myself to stop thinking about it . . . to stop worrying about it, the more I think about it.

One of the other writers in a group the other day asked why I would call my manuscript a cozy mystery but then compare its style to Dick Francis. He, a former manger of Murder by the Book in Houston, said that Dick Francis has always been known as a thriller writer. Personally, and I’ve never been a book store manager so there is a significant loss in credibility, I’ve never considered Francis a thriller writer. Vince Flynn, Robert Ludlum, Dan Brown; these are thriller writers in my mind and I’ve always categorized them that way for one simple reason, the presence of a deadline.

This fellow in the group clumped thriller writers based on the amount of gore involved in the murder. That seems more ambiguous than my deadline parameter. I found an article by Vickie Brittion where in she describes the elements of a Cozy Mystery.
• no explicit sex
• no gore or violence
• no graphic language
• amateur sleuth
• centers around a puzzle or whodunnit
• local setting

Wikipedia defines thrillers as “often overlap with mystery stories” and “in a thriller the identity of a murderer or other villain is typically known all along.” So based on that I’m right both about my novel and about Dick Francis. Then this sentence comes along: “While a mystery climaxes when the mystery is solved, a thriller climaxes when the hero finally defeats the villain, saving his own life and often the lives of others.”

Anyone who has read any Dick Francis novels can see in that last sentence how every single Francis novel fits that mold.

Despite all this, the one thing that irked me, if only because it was so misogynistic, was the fellow didn’t think my novel was a cozy mystery becase I was a guy writing it, my hero was a guy, and it dealt with fitness and exercise as a theme, something he termed generally male themes.

So, for my next novel, based on this fellows thoughts, I either have to plan on keeping my style of writing, but finding a theme like knitting, and write from a female point of view, or make the mystery more sweeping, have the killer’s identity known, and produce a hard and fast time line and turn it into a thriller. Who knew there was such pigeon holeing done in the world of publishing?

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

First Line

Vicki Allegretti always wondered what it would feel like to look into the barrel of a loaded gun, and now she knew.

Devil's Corner - Lisa Scottoline

Shocking First Line

"It was a hell of a night to throw away a baby."
Julia Spencer-Fleming - Bleak Midwinter

Monday, April 19, 2010

Book Review: Shogun

Shogun by James Clavell was an inspiring and sweeping epic that was both engaging and surprisingly easy to read. Easy meaning that although the author weaves several deep political stories, and works in several themes and shows how a prisoner of war can become a victim of the Stockholm Syndrome, Clavell deftly enter into the minds of his characters and allows each of them to explain the stories from so that the story becomes easy to understand as well as supremely engrossing.

One of the aspects of the book that I enjoyed the most was that it landed far more on the side of fiction than history. One aspect of historical fiction that I've never enjoyed is trying to figure out what is actual history from fiction. I'll never read another Mischner if only cause I'm never sure what I can cite to my friends with complete certainty. Clavell lets the reader know from the outset, through the changing of the names and people who lived and died, that very little of what is in the book should be taken as a fact. Instead what the reader gets is a primer on life in Japan in the late 16th century.

Clavell's writing is descriptive, clear and at time poetic. I marked these samples in my Kindle Notes:

Describing Mariko, the protagonist's love interest, "At once she hurried back into the other room, her silk kimono sighing like a midnight sea."

Blackthorne, the protagonist, thinking about Toronaga, "That's where Toranaga will be, he thought, an ice barb suddenly in his bowels."

Blackthorne watching the sunrise, thinking about the coming day, "The dawn was smoky. The sky to the east was already burnt clean of the haze. The air smelled salt and wet from the sea. Flies already swarmed. It'll be hot today he thought." It turned out to be a bad day, I thought the sentence set that up well.

Clavell also seemed to make a big deal in describing the eating, "(he) went to his own quarters and ate rice, pickled vegetables, and broiled chunks of fish." The first few times he says this I thought it was to emphasize the simplicity of the Japanese diet at the time. Later, after he had used the same saying dozens of times, I started to wonder if he was using it so often to express the monotony of the always eating the same thing, that perhaps the diet was too simple. Still it was just one of the hundreds of "slices of life" that he uses to help transport the reader into the setting.

One of the main characters, Toranaga, the eventual Shogun in fact, is a vivid character who becomes more likable as the novel progresses. Clavell often describes Toranaga hunting with his hawks. The author does a wonderful job of allowing the reader insight into Toranaga's mind. He also takes these opportunities to reinforce a couple of the themes by having the Toronaga think about and analyze the hawks he owns and loves. He goes to extreme detail in the description of the hunts. At the end of one hunt he writes, "Because Tetsu-ko had flown so well, Toronaga decided to let her gorge and fly her no more today. He gave her a small bird that he had already plucked and opened for he. When she was halfway through her meal he slipped on her hood. She continued to fee contentedly through the hood. When she had finished and began to preen herself again he picked up the cock pheasant, bagged it, and beckoned his falconer, who had waited with the beaters." What is interesting is that throughout that whole passage Clavell describes the hawk's through Toronaga, letting the reader think he is linking the qualities of one particular hawk to Blackthrone. It's not till the end that the reader realizes who he is actually describing.

Among the several stories that Clavell weaves through the book is a political struggle between the ruling parties at the time. Although there are passages where in I found myself confused by the Japanese politics, in general I never found myself too confused, and by the end of the book was not confused at all. I found that a bit of patience helped me gain a fuller appreciation for the book and the story. It was very much like being in a chess game, particularly as so many of the samurai in the book are treated like pawns, used and sacrificed with hardly a second thought. There were dozens of feints and thrusts and threats of the same. By the end of the book the reader feels as though Toronaga has set up the board just as he wanted it from the very beginning of the book.

At one point, near the end of the book, a main character betrays Toronaga and Blackthrone. It was such a sudden and unexpected twist that I actually gasped as I read it. What I found so interesting about this betrayal was that it was perfectly in tune with the nature of the character; there was no reason for the reader not to expect it. In fact, Toronaga, in an excellent example of foreshadowing, expects it throughout the book. Still, it was surprising when it came.

Finally, I have to say that Donald Maass (whose book, Writing the Breakout Novel was the impetus behind my reading Shogun) was entirely correct. Shogun does sweep the reader away and immerse them in a compelling and rewarding story. I can think of few books that stand alone (meaning serials are excluded) that have done such a masterful job of creating a world and rich set of characters. If you haven't, go read it. Expect future posts to describe how the mini-series differs.

One of my Favorite Sites

I'm almost through with Shogun, and what a long trip that has been. It's been great reading it on the Kindle. Nevertheless, as I come to the end, I'm beginning to think about what future books I will be reading.

Since Shogun has been such a great epic (as you will read in the next few days in my review) I went to one of my favorite websites to do a bit of research. Literature Map has to be one of the few websites that I've stuck with the longest in my website viewing history. I think I found it nine years or so ago. I can't think of another website (other than mail) that I still go to after nine years.

Literature Map allows the user to type in an authors name and instantly see a list of other authors who are similar to the entry. The entered authors name appears in the center of the screen, and depending how similar and in what way similar, the other authors are arranged around it. For example: Dick Francis. When I type Dick Francis in the entry field, I see that Thomas Perry is located nearby. Who in the world is he? How come I've never read anything by him? I've never even heard of him. Well, I'll soon be reading one of his books. That's why I love it.

What they need is the same functionality for books. That way I could type Shogun in and get similar epics. Right now all I can do is type in Clavell and see what comes out.

Still, nine years of using this and it still surprises and helps me out. I suggest eveyrone check it out.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Critique Group

I've just joined about ten different writing critique groups online. I'm hoping to find an outlet for advice and inspiration to a degree that has been lacking in the critique group I'm in presently. Basically, I don't know why I have to sit around and listen to a YA fantasy novel manuscript, a children's book manuscript, a thriller that is incredibly childish without meaning to be, and a memoir that reads like a shopping list just to get advice on my mystery novels from the same people whose work I find so poorly written in the first place. It's not that they're a bad group, I just want a genre-specific group.

I heard that there was a local critique group that met in the Rice Village at a mystery bookstore. Due to the demands of fatherhood, making a break for a meeting with such a group would be well nigh impossible. Thus I have opted for joining as many online groups as possible. I expect at least one of the ten to yield some degree of inspiration and advice.

I joined my first critique group nine years ago. We formed ourselves after our writing class ended. Notably, it was basically all of the members of the class, plus the instructor, less the weirdo who brough a fifth of whiskey to each meeting, took offense at each negative review of his work, and got so drunk we had to call him a cab.

I've always been impressed by the courage it takes to go to critique groups in person and how much better they make my writing. I can edit and proof-read a story dozens of times, but the second that I read it at a critique group not only do I find problems, but so do the others. Invariably the problems lead to improvements to the story. It's an interesting and enlighting dynamic to say the least.

I hope to be pleasantly surprised by these new online groups.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Great Writers Steal

T.S. Eliot (allegedly) said, "Good writers borrow, great writers steal" or something to that affect. Keeping this in mind. . . I'm a great writer. I have stolen an idea from one of my favorite writers, Jay Nordlinger. The first lines posts that I've been writing for the past few months (which can be seen as a whole by clicking the link "First Lines" in this blog) was an idea that I lifted from Mr. Nordlinger. Many of the first lines I've posted have come from his article on the same subject.

Now, I plan on continuing the posts for a longer period of time, and hope one day to entice him to my site so that he can lift some for me for a follow on article (and thus become a "great" writer himself). I bring this up not to highlight my "greatness" as a writer, but rather to highlight Mr. Nordlinger.

Jay writes articles that he titles Impromptus for National Review magazine and National Review Online. In his articles, among other things, he enjoys talking about keen phrasings that have been used by politicians, interesting word choices, and the evolution of language. In this vein, I would love to see him discuss, and disambiguate the term that is being floated around political circles right now; Value Added Tax or VAT. Is there truly value added to a product do to the tax? How is that value transferred? Should it really be a CAT or Cost Added Tax?

I believe too that if Jay read this post that sentence in which I challenged him regarding the VAT would offer two or three bullet points; how do we float something political circles, and isn't the term disambiguate not only wonderfully fun to say but also extremely to the point? And finally, am I not even a greater writer now that I'm writing about words and language evolution as that is two things I've stolen from Jay?

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Kindling Ideas in my Mind

My father came up with an interesting idea the other day. It was right after he said that "the Kindle will be history in under a year." I likened that statment to someone having said, "the hard-back book will be history in under a year" when paper-back books made and appearance.

Despite this statement, my father had a truly interesting idea. He thought that the text on the Kindle should scroll downward as the reader reads. This should be adjustable (as simple as a setting for fast, slow, faster, and slower) and would also get rid of the constant "next page" button pushing. I thought it sounded pretty clever.

In this vein, I have a couple of ideas that Amazon should look into for their next Kindle release.

Allow the reader to download and set his own screen-saver images. I'm not sure who made the final decision on the images that are pre-loaded, but they're kinda rotten. I have a portrait of Agatha Christie (good), an awkward one of Steinbeck (blah), a portrait of James Joyce where in his hands appear so small that I think he must have been in constant pain, then several of historically notably people, few of whom I recognize and they are not captioned. Why can't I be allowed to download my own? I would pick Dick Francis (natch), Agatha Christie is already on there, Robert B. Parker, and a host of others. They could serve as my constant inspiration.

Second, allow me to download music that can play through the little speakers on the back. I'd love it if a bit of Beethoven, or a mote of Mozart were pumped out as background noise while I read. The sucker has speakers. I've yet to hear them work, but I think this would be a good way to leverage those babies.

There are several other ideas regarding future versions floating around in my scunion, but we'll save those for future posts.

Another Thoughtful First Line

“For forty years my act consisted of one joke. And then she died.”

-George Burns, Gracie: A Love Story

Monday, April 12, 2010

iPad Test Drive

My brother and I found ourselves at the Apple Store to check out the new iPads. I have to say in terms of the full color screen, I'm quite impressed. When I tried out the e-reader application the characters were crisp and clear and I found it remarkably easy to read. I do have one or two points where in I was no overly impressed.

First, unlike the Kindle, the iPad mimics page turns on the screen. This seems a bit silly and superfluous to me. What happened to all of that "new way of presenting material" stuff we'd been hearing so much about. This isn't a new way to present material at all, it was just the old way shown on the screen. I can understand that for many this would provide a bit of a easy introduction into the world of reading via tablet, but I think I like the utilitarianess of the Kindle.

Secondly, and this is a feature of the Kindle which has a bit of an expiration date, but one of my favorite aspects is my ability to one-hand that sucker. I can hold onto my new baby Charlie with one hand and quite easily turn pages by clicking the next page key with my other. I did not immediately see a way to do that with the iPad. It looks like a two-hand job.

Nevertheless, my impressions were quite positive. It's a great looking machine (I won't say "great looking computer" if only because I don't want to provide Dave yet another opening to say "it's not a computer). I was surprised by the screen and intrigued.

Friday, April 9, 2010


Saw this posted on that same blog I mentioned earilier, Nathan Bransford's blog. I like his Friday posts as he does a recap of the weeks publishing news. I thought this was particularly well executed and fun to watch.

Ups and Downs

Nathan Bransford has a terrific post over at his blog. Basically it concerns a new novel called Looking for Alaska. (Quick aside. I've always loved titles like this, the ones with a double entendre, or hidden secondary meaning. Alaska is the name of the girlfriend in the book. Similar to 500 Days of Summer.)

The post describes the way in which the protagonist, a young kid at boarding school, falls in love with the girl, Alaska. Specifically Nathan discusses the way in which the story is not a series of bad decisions that keep bringing the protagonist down, make him continue to strive and struggle. Although these are things that books on the writing craft espouse and promote, Looking for Alaska takes it a bit further.

The relationship between Alaska and the main character is like a roller coaster or a sine wave, lots of ups and downs. Sometimes he thinks that Alaska is the best girl on the face of the Earth, other times he can understand what she's thinking or doing. Nathan points out that this up and down dynamic serves to highten each apex and nadir. Pinnacles will look and feel much higher if the climb to the top begins in a valley.

It's a good suggestion and it makes me wonder if I naturally did this in my novel, Toe the Line. Do my main characters, Wynn and Madison go through peaks and valleys in their relationship? I think so, some. Could I have emphasized it more? Sure. Will I follow this script in the future? You betcha. Do I think I'm sounding like Donald Rumsfeld by posing my own questions to ask? Yep.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Urban Fantasy (?)

I finally finished the judging for the novel contest for the Houston Writer’s Guild spring competition. All told I probably read the first fifteen pages of about sixty or seventy novels. This is a particularly unfair mode for comparison. I’ve never thought that just the first fifteen pages and a quick synopsis (which are inevitably poorly written) is a very valid way of judging whether or not a novel is any good. But, I’ve yet to figure out a better, more timely way of judging. The most fair course of action would be to read the entire novel, but that would take an extremely long time, and considering some of the entries I read, I would probably kill myself sometime after reading the fiftieth urban fantasy novel.

I’m not quite sure what urban fantasy genre is, but for the most part, every single novel that featured hobgoblins, vampires, demi-vampires (?), seers, wizards, and witches were labled as “urban fantasy.” It is impossible to inpart in this blog just how incredibly banal most of these entries were. Now, although “urban fantasy” is not necessarily my cup of tea, I don’t shy away from them either. I read with relish the Harry Potter series and would most likely enjoy the Percy Jackson novels. I look forward to with a great degree of anticipation the next book in George R. R. Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire series which has the rebirth of Dragons as a central theme in the book. I thoroughly enjoyed re-reading Tolkien’s Hobbit and Fellowship of the Ring series. The entries I read couldn’t hold a candle to any of these works.

I read an article from National Review this morning about the engrandizement of these monsters in popular children’s literature and fantasy series a la Harry Potter. The premise of the article being that we as a culture are losing the ability to properly deal with and confront monsters when our culture continues to find rationale for and explanations to humanize monsters. Some prescient examples being the Whovillian’s treatment of the Grinch in the Jim Carrey movie. The movie tends to try and explain why the Grinch was mean. In the book, he was just mean. A reader sent in the following blog entry.

The evolution of vampires, Grinches, and witches is a variation on the theme of defining deviancy down. There was a time when we knew a monster when we saw one — and understood that some nasties need to have their heads chopped off and their mouths stuffed with garlic. Nowadays, however, vampirism and its related maladies are just alternative lifestyles. Condemning them is an unforgivable rendering of judgment and a crime against the imperatives of moral relativism. A society that has trouble recognizing monsters in its art probably will have difficulty identifying terrorists at its airports

Based on the entries I read for the novel contest, we have little to fear from many of these potential authors making it into print and re-defining the deviancy of their monsters. I will say that the percentage of urban fantasy entries to all others was easily 60% (fantasy) 40% (other). Made for some pretty aggravating reading for yours truly.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Reading Epics (Partial Reveiew of Shogun)

Anyone who reads this blog on a regular basis knows that the reason I haven’t written any book reviews lately is that I’m knee deep into Shogun by James Clavell, a book I read following several mentions by Donald Maass in his book Writing the Breakout Novel. Shogun is a long sucker. Ranks right up there with Les Miserables and Lonesome Dove in terms of length. There is one thing that I’m discovering regarding epics, and it brings to mind something else I’ve read about the mechanics of writing, namely that there should be conflict on every page.

I recall several times while reading Lonesome Dove that I got a bit beaten down by the story. There were times when I felt it dragged, particularly when a secondary story line, one that pulled the reader away from the cattle drive, came along. Having read Shogun, I appreciate to a greater degree what McMurtry pulled off in Lonesome Dove. I find his ability to weave stories back and forth along a central story of the cattle drive to be far more ground-breaking than I originally thought. While the cowboys drive the cattle, Gus and Call are on a walk down memory lane, Jake Spoon is camping out with Laurie, and then getting into trouble, Gus is out saving Laurie. Later, Jake is off being hung by his old friends, the buffalo skinners are trekking to Kansas with Elmira and July Johnson is chasing them. Roscoe is chasing July, Gus is meeting Clara, Newt is trying to figure out if Call is his dad and all of this as the cattle drive continues. In and out, in and out, almost all of the stories touching the cattle drive as it moves North. Along with this is the constant conflict that each character faces. Les Miserables in similar. Many, many stories all touching on Jean Val Jean’s central journey toward redemption. Conflict abounds.

Shogun lacks this type of narrative but certainly hits the same levels of conflict. Shogun is about political positioning and how a Westerner deals with the cultural differences and survives as a prisoner of war. One aspect I’m finding I don’t care for, and this is minor to say the least, is that in both Lonesome Dove and Les Miserables, the chapters delineate the changes in point of view (POV). Not so in Shogun. Clavell doesn’t hesitate to change POV in mid-chapter, sometimes with no warning. Just something to remember when I write my own epic.

Movie Review First Line

"What's wrong with this sad fiasco goes far beyond its visual deficits, but let's start there."

-Joel Morgenstern on Clash of the Titans

Monday, April 5, 2010

Short but Entrhalling First Line

“Overhead, one by one, the stars were going out”

The Nine Billion Names of God - Arthur C. Clarke,

Friday, April 2, 2010

In Anticipation of the iPad

Someone on an airplane asked me whether he should invest in a Kindle or an iPad. I gave him all of the arguments I've listed here, but didn't really answer his question. Now, having spoken to my brother, read the wonderful Mossberg review in the WSJ, and all of the other reports about the iPad that is released tomorrow (?), I realize that I should have answered this man's question with, "What do you want to do with it?"

If you want to surf the web, have a GPS, read magazine articles and enjoy the full color pictures that come with them, and play games and videos, then the iPad is for you. Dave, my brother, takes it a bit further, so far in fact that whenever I happen to compare the iPad to a netbook or laptop he rolls his eyes in exasperation and says "but, it's not a computer, . . . it's something completely different." Just what it is seems to escape Dave, but I do see his point. It isn't a true e-reader, and it isn't a true computer. It's a tablet. It's a multimedia tablet that does a lot and has a potential to do more.

If you want to read, . . . go get a Kindle. This might be why I'm such a fan of the Kindle. I don't have a GPS, I don't balance my checkbook while I'm out to dinner, and I don't play music in the car with my Kindle. I use my Kindle to read. I read books, I read blogs and I read articles in papers and magazines. I read. That's it. If you want to read with something, invest in a Kindle.

If, on the other hand, you need an e-reader crossed with a Willard Tip Calculator and more. . . go buy an iPad