Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Not My Favorite of the Bunch

I don't think it was the best of the trilogy, but I said in a previous post, it had the strongest ending. In fact I think that The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest was the weakest of the three stories. One of the things I liked about the first two, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and The Girl Who Played with Fire, was that Blomqvist and Lisbeth work independently of one another but came to the same conclusions. It's like one of those magnificent stories with intricately woven plots and sub-plots that somehow come together at the end.

The other thing I liked about the previous two novels that was absent in this one was that the reader got to watch and read about Lisbeth Salander and her terrifically anti-social ways. Not so much in this book. In this book the reader is treated to Lisbeth sitting in a hospital bed. Despite that, it was worthwhile reading and like I said I loved the ending.

I was all set to not care about what happened to Lisbeth's brother. I thought that Larsson had done a decent job of completely dropping a once major character out of the story in such a way that the reader didn't care. Then, BOOM! he brings him back and creates an incredibly compelling ending.

I already remarked about this passage and how good I thought it was, but sadly that was the only passage I marked.

Nevertheless, it is a great trilogy, it's easy to see why so many people were wrapped up in them, and it's sad to think that Larsson won't be producing more.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

2012 NaNo Idea #1

I read an article in WSJ today by Joel Queenan about the Bourne Legacy movie. It wasn't the best article I've ever read, but it made me think about this years National Novel Writing Month because of this line:

"The Bourne Legacy" excoriates a government that tries to pick winners and losers, a job best left to the free market. Who decided that a covert program training super-assassins was even worthwhile? Why would anyone think the government is best suited to implement such a program? Wouldn't it make more sense to farm this out to organized crime or battle-tested mercenaries? Those guys are really good at this stuff.

I latched onto this line because of my grandfather's business, SSI, Space Services Inc. He started it back in the late 70's or 80's as a privately owned rocket company. I've always thought his thoughts were that why leave it to the federal government to do something that private enterprise could do better and cheaper. It's very much like Steven Pressfield's The Profession, but instead of whole private mercenary armies, this story would focus on a person in the battle. 

This seems like a good idea to build on for NaNo. A corporate spy who is tasked with international corporate espionage. I could write it so that he sees something of national import, but that would counter to his task for the company and he could be torn between the loyalty to his multi-national company and his home country. Or, due to the aggressiveness of the multi-national company the CIA or other covert agencies could target him for death.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Not Bad

Started a commitment book today. This isn't the best, but it's enough to lead me on and keep me going.

CAPTAIN SEAN O’SULLIVAN LIFTED the blackout curtain. A burst of dull light grayed the room. Christ, he thought, doesn’t the sun ever shine in London. He heard planes droning overhead toward the English Channel but he could not see them through the thick fog. He wondered if his brother, Tim, was flying today.

Uris, Leon - Armageddon

I ran into a lady whilst in the airport in St. Louis. She saw that I was reading Tai-Pan, she recommended Uris. We'll see lady . . . we'll see.

Onward through commitment book!

Friday, August 24, 2012

Maybe the Best Book Ending Ever

It may not have been the best first line but it sure came together in the end. This might be the best ending to a book ever. No . . . not this passage, I mean the whole ending. I'll have a posting on the book later where I feel certain I'll discuss the ending at length. But, with that being said, this last line is pretty good too.

She looked at him for a moment and realized that she now had no feelings for him. At least not those kinds of feelings. 

He had in fact been a good friend to her over the past year. 

She trusted him. Maybe. It was troubling that one of the few people she trusted was a man she spent so much time avoiding. 

Then she made up her mind. It was absurd to pretend that he did not exist. It no longer hurt her to see him. 

She opened the door wide and let him into her life again.

Larsson, Stieg -The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Great Passage

I love the Kindle app cause when I come across something I really like, I mark it and can come back later at the touch of a button. Today I ran across something that I thought was so good I wanted to more than mark it. Sadly, Kindle does not really have a "More Than Mark" function. Wouldn't it be nice if you could mark something with degrees of interest? Why have just a flat bookmark, why not be able to mark something a 10 meaning, when you come back later this one aint that important . . . ah, but that 1 up there, that one is something you need to review right a way. Got get on it Kindle.

In the mean time, I think I would have marked this one a 2 or at least a 3.

"At 2: 30 she was led back to the interrogation cell. This time her guard was a young woman. Salander sat on a chair in the empty cell and pondered a particularly intricate equation. 

After ten minutes the door opened. “Hello, Lisbeth.” A friendly tone. It was Teleborian. 

He smiled at her, and she froze. The components of the equation she had constructed in the air before her came tumbling to the ground. She could hear the numbers and mathematical symbols bouncing and clattering as if they had physical form. 

Teleborian stood still for a minute and looked at her before he sat down on the other side of the table. She continued to stare at the same spot on the wall.

Larsson, Stieg - The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest

I love that part with the numbers and symbols dropping to the ground in her mind. That's a 2 isn't it?

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Sounds Like a Teenage Ender

A comment from an avid reader has precipitated this post. His first line makes me think that it might have been great as the first line of the Star War's Novel, or for Ender's Game, had Ender been a bit older. 

Interstellar war was not at the top of David’s schedule as he jumped excitedly out of bed.

Roger Lawrence - Three Hoodies Save the World

Nevertheless, as a fan of sci-fi and of compelling first sentences that tend to invariably suck a reader in, I look forward to reading more.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Might Be Too Political, But . . .

This might be a mote too political, but whenever one of my favorite literary characters is mentioned in a blog I like to point it out. Although any reader of this blog might find it hard to believe, due to the dirth of reviews of these books in my book reviews section my favorite series of books is George MacDonald Fraser's Flashman books.

Today, the political writer for National Review, Mark Steyn, quotes from Flashman, the first novel, that is set in Afghanistan.

This I will say for the Afghan – he is a treacherous, evil brute when he wants to be, but while he is your friend he is a first-rate fellow. The point is, you must judge to a second when he is going to cease to be friendly. There is seldom any warning.

Steyn goes on to quote himself from an article he wrote a year and a half ago:

A dozen pages of a Flashman yarn has a sounder grasp of the Afghan psyche than nine years of multilateral “nation-building”. Which is why we’re going round and round in circles in an almighty Groundhogistan where a man gets sentenced to death for converting to Christianity under a court system created, funded and protected by us.

To read the whole post go here, but I recommend instead that you go buy the novel and read it immediately. Flashman has so many more things to say on the subject and really there are few books as fun to read as these.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Simply (Less Than) the Best!

Not a great first line or passage if you ask me. Actually, having read the other two books, and written about their first lines, I don't think that Stieg Larsson puts much credence in having stunning first lines.

Dr. Jonasson was woken by a nurse five minutes before the helicopter was expected to land. It was just before 1: 30 in the morning. 

“What?” he said, confused. 

“Rescue Service helicopter coming in. Two patients. An injured man and a younger woman. The woman has gunshot wounds.” 

“All right,” Jonasson said wearily. 

Although he had slept for only half an hour, he felt groggy. He was on the night shift in the ER at Sahlgrenska hospital in Göteborg. It had been a strenuous evening.

Larsson, Stieg - The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest

However, my knowledge of the first two books can also lead me to believe that this is less a first line of a new book as just an arbitrary break in the action between book two and three. It's as if he wrote this and The Girl Who Played with Fire at the same time and was asked by his agent to split it into two.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Just Couldn't Do It

Someone recommended a book to me the other day and I went out and bought it . . . Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander. Just prior to pushing purchase in Amazon I did take a peek at the reviews, not any specific reviews, but just the number. 

The book had over 1500 reviews, most of them positive. I tried reading it and actually got 15% of the way through, then I gave up. Just way too much nonsense and detail. I felt I was living out every minute of someone else’s life. It was a good primer on not letting a story drag. It wasn’t till I was about 5% in that I looked at one of the one star reviews and saw a review by Honest Abby titled “What the Fuss?”

This book gets so much adoration and love...and I just don't get it! I completely agree with several of the other one-star reviews. This book is disturbingly violent, has a plot that meanders aimlessly, and two lead characters who are poorly characterized.

I agree. Life is too short to read huge "commitment novels" that take too long to go anywhere. Next!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Author Interviews

As I have said in previous posts, I'm thinking of using a service to organize reviews, blog tours, and author interviews. I've just received yet another review, this time from Laura Beasley out of Hong Kong.

This is the second interview I've had to do, the first being here, and I think I need to brush up on some of my answers prior to getting a company to help me. Still, I'll take another good review.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Research for Novel Three

I began Night Fall by Nelson DeMille not realizing that it played perfectly into the plot that I was using for my third novel. I’ve read one other Nelson DeMille book, The Lion’s Game. I like The Lion’s Game. I love the opening chapters where the plane lands in New York and everyone is dead. I thought that was an awesome way to start the book. As I posted in my first lines category Night Fall too started well. Sadly for both books I found the endings less than spectacular.

John Corey, the main character, who I love for his abrasive attitude, at one point said while watching a memorial service:

Empathy and sensitivity are not my strong points, but this scene of shared grief and comforting passed through my own death-hardened shell like the warm ocean breeze through a screen door.

This was a good analogy. It stopped me. But then, as I read more, I realized it wasn’t worthy of the character’s inner thoughts. This guy wouldn’t be thinking of a screen door and ocean breezes. I really liked these next few. It shows the character’s personality so well. If there was an aspect of DeMille’s writing that I would want to emulate it would be the way he allows the character to interact in a playful and false way with the reader. All of these express the “joking” attitude that Corey holds, and they all make the character much more real for the reader.

It was not yet noon, and the place was fairly empty, except for a few locals drinking what smelled like So Long tea out of bowls and chattering away in Cantonese, though the couple at the next booth was speaking Mandarin. 

I’m making this up. 

There was an exquisitely beautiful young Chinese woman waiting tables, and I watched her moving around as if she were floating on air. She floated toward me, we smiled, and she floated away to be replaced by an old crone wearing bedroom slippers. 

God, I think, plays cruel jokes on married men. I ordered coffee.

Corey is in them middle of a fight with his wife, Kate. He comes home and reports:

I got back to my apartment a little after 7 P.M., and Kate was in the kitchen wearing a tiny teddy while cooking my favorite meal of steak, real French fries, and garlic bread. My clothes, which I’d left on the living room floor, were put away, and there was a Budweiser waiting for me in an ice bucket. None of that is true, of course, except my arrival time and Kate being home. She was sitting in an armchair reading the Times.

Then there is this, Corey’s philosophy on life. It gives the reader a quick but sure peek into what makes him tick.

Life was a continuing series of compromises, disappointments, betrayals, and what-ifs. Now and then, you get it right the first time, and more rarely, you get a chance to do it over and get it right the second time. 

Was it as good as The Lion’s Game? I don’t think so. The Lion’s Game is far more original and sweeping. Even though I didn’t like the ending of The Lion’s Game, it was far better than the predictable and trite ending of Night Fall. Am I glad I read it,  . . . yep, . . . and I look forward to reading another by DeMille soon.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Baby Thundercloud Strikes Again

Whenever my youngest son gets upset he lowers his head and slits his eyes and provides anyone looking a grumpy face. We call him "Baby Thundercloud" when he does this.

He's the second in the two part team that makes up the Word Smith/Word Wiz duo that is a part of this blog. Lately we've noticed alot of bunnies outside our house. One day Price and I saw a hawk snatch a bunny just a few meters from us (later, he provided a terrifically gruesome sight for Price by eating that bunny in our front yard then leaving the carcass in our tree).

There are so many bunnies that problems like the hawks, the cars, dogs all provide quick ends to them. So, when Charlie started to take notice in them it was funny to hear his two year old voice call them. "Dabbits." Now, with all the bunnies not surviving very long it seems more apropos that he calls them "Dummy Dabbits."

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Don't Believe Me? Just Pay a Bit More Attention

It's true what Roger said, you can only call the day a ochre dying schmear so many times, but authors love to talk about mornings. Case and point. Not even 10% into the book and I hit the first. Not bad, though in terms of morning descriptions that I've cataloged.

Dawn was coming up in streaks and slashes over the foggy moor. Our destination loomed ahead, a huge bulk of dark stone outlined by the grey light.

Gabaldon, Diana - Outlander

Still it continues to amaze me that this is such obvious and almost over-used fodder in novels. It sure makes me want to describe afternoons since everyone else is so focused on mornings.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Outside the Box and Not Sure I Like It

I'm reading outside the box. This was recommended to me by a reviewer and I'm not sure if I'm going to like it. I bought it though, so I have to finish it.

It wasn’t a very likely place for disappearances, at least at first glance. Mrs. Baird’s was like a thousand other Highland bed-and-breakfast establishments in 1945; clean and quiet, with fading floral wallpaper, gleaming floors, and a coin-operated hot-water geyser in the lavatory. Mrs. Baird herself was squat and easygoing, and made no objection to Frank lining her tiny rose-sprigged parlor with the dozens of books and papers with which he always traveled.

Gabaldon, Diana - Outlander

Monday, August 6, 2012

Great Title, Greater Article

I read Karen Thompson Walker's article Sentences Sentenced to Hard Labor in the WSJ with great verve and excitement. Usually I eschew articles on sentence crafting and word smithing. I have a series of posts on word smithing inspired by my two children, but that's about as far as I'll deign to go. Miss Walker's article changed that, at least on Saturday.

I liked Miss Walker's article for one very prescient reason, she used relevant and meaningful examples to express her point. I started my series on First Lines because every writing class always emphasizes the importance of first lines but beyond that you just don't hear much. Miss Walker goes beyond the importance of first lines and tackles how sentences can provide several degrees of depth to the story.

Most importantly, like a waiter who doesn't drop a single plate but also engages in charming conversation, the best sentences do more than one job at the same time. And I've found that the frequent use of these multitasking sentences is often what separates great books from all the others. These sentences give literature its layers, mystery and depth.

The example follow on the heels of this statement. The one I liked the most was this one.

One of my favorite hardworking sentences is the first line of "The Virgin Suicides" by Jeffrey Eugenides: "On the morning the last Lisbon daughter took her turn at suicide—it was Mary this time, and sleeping pills, like Therese—the two paramedics arrived at the house knowing exactly where the knife drawer was, and the gas oven, and the beam in the basement from which it is was possible to tie a rope."

This sentence 1) delivers crucial information via back story—all the girls in this family have committed suicide; 2) creates mystery and suspense by withholding the reasons for the suicides, the events that preceded this final day and the identity of the person telling this story; 3) shows us carefully chosen details, as vivid as they are meaningful, and 4) sounds good to our ears—the element that drew me in right away. To say that Mary "took her turn at suicide" instead of the more familiar "committed" is just one example of the line's fresh and subtle poetry.

Miss Walker's article did it's job. I'm travelling this week, invariably this is when I get the bulk of my writing in. Guess who will stop taking sentences for granted?

Friday, August 3, 2012

Argh! What a Let Down the End Was

I don't think I've felt more let down by the ending of a book than I was by Nelson Demille's Night Fall. I finished it last night and have felt down in the dumps since. The last line:

It wasn’t until Friday that I returned to the Plaza Hotel to pick up our things in the suite, and to have the safe opened to claim Mrs. Winslow’s package. The assistant manager was accommodating, but informed me that there was nothing of Mrs. Winslow’s in the safe.

DeMille, Nelson - Night Fall

Such a let down compared to the first line that seemed to make the novel so intriguing. I'll have more in the upcoming review.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

The Big Surprise is Live and Let Die

My brother sent me this link to a site that shows the real revenue (as well as adjusted for inflation revenue) for all of the bond movies. Yes, this is a book and writing blog, but I blog alot about James Bond novels so there is a tangential relationship. That being said, I still find it sad that there are so many great bond novels out there that got lost in translation . . . lost may be the wrong term, I don't even think they read the novel, just stole the title.

The biggest surprise is not that when you adjust for inflation that Thunderball is the biggest revenue winner. The surprise is that Live and Let Die is the highest grosser for all the Roger Moore movies. What's up with that? Have these people not figured out that Christopher Walken is in A View to a Kill? Secondly, where's Never Say Never Again?

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

On the Cusp

As I am on the cusp of completing this next novel and shall presently be adding to both my last lines and first lines labels, I'm going to resort to a bit of a re-post.

I re-post this at least once a year if only cause I find it so dang useful. The Literature Map link that you see on the right of this blog is an incredibly useful application. I doubt if it is updated and administered as much as many folks who read this blog might like, but it is useful nonetheless.

Go try it out. Put in the name of an author you like, and see what is returned. I use it tons.