Wednesday, May 29, 2013

I Can't Wait to Try This!

I'm sure everyone reading this has experienced one of those minor epiphanies that come along in life. A shift in the way you see things, a minor one maybe, but effective and mind blowing (or mind clearing). I find them exciting and fun which is why I was so happy to see this post at The Kill Zone and re-post it here.

It is a post by P.J. Parrish and she lays out a way of outlining via drawing the notes. She provides many samples but you know the one I like most? Norman Mailers. I don't even like Mailer! Yet I can't wait to use his style of visual plotting.

For any writer I think the post is worth reading and the link to more is definitely worth it.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Despite the Plethora of Great Stuff . . .

There is so much material to write about today.

In the WSJ alone I found two terrific articles that fit the content and task of this blog. The first by Jefferey A. Trachtenberg about the upcoming book and publishing expo (here). A great article on the most recent trends in the publishing industry.

The other is this review from the weekend about a new thriller out of Norway (here). As a fan of the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo series I'm always keen for more from that AO. But the article I like the most is this one by Carl McCoy called Dear Grads, Don't Do What You Love.

In this article the author writes that telling graduates to follow their hearts ins't necessarily the best advice.

"Do what you love" is an important message, but it's unwise to build a career on the notion that we should all be paid for our passions. The advice captures only part of the story. It tells us how excellent work might be accomplished—by loving it—but it doesn't tell us why the work should be done. What is the point of all the effort? What is being worked toward?

The answer lies in working with a deeper sense of purpose or vocation. You don't need to be a religious or spiritual person to tap into this higher purpose; it can be derived from a sense of community and a desire to pull together. Yet without such a higher purpose where all this love and ambition can be directed, we don't have a very useful guidepost for meaningful success. We simply have a call to discover what it is that we love, and then to do it.

It's an interesting few passages, and it gets more interesting when he writes about how multifaceted our lives are. Can we truly only love one thing? Can't we love to train, to analyze trends, to write technical manuals and to write all with the same passion?

Also, there is this:

Then there are those who love things that will never pay very well. As someone who has tried living as a starving artist, I can attest that there's nothing romantic or noble about being impoverished in pursuit of doing what you love. When you're working two or three jobs, and you can't pay your bills, it doesn't matter how much you love any of them. You just get worn out.

This is where I find myself. Do I love to write? Yep, sure do. Do I have a lifestyle that allows me to live comfortably, provide for my family and write what I want? Nope, not even close. If I only followed my heart I'd have nothing by now except debts and probably some hungry kiddos living in a too small house.

The long and short of it is that you can't always do everything to the extreme. I consider myself a black and white person. I don't like the grey areas of life. But my writing life is one huge grey area, a career that I nibble at and pick up when the moment allows.

I think the more apropos message to graduates would be to identify you "passions" (plural) and play to them all. If one pans out, then consider yourself lucky.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Not a Dan Browner

Although I like Dan Brown's novels, and was rapt when I read The Da Vinci Code, I felt the old ho hum feeling when I read in the WSJ about his just released book, Inferno. The review, The Ninth Circle of Sell by Tom Shippey says:

Chapter after chapter ends with Langdon saying, "My God, that's it!," or with Mr. Brown telling us, "In an instant, he knew." But the "it" is never all of the puzzle, and there's always something else to know. The pace is so hot that it is not till you are well into the chase that you pause to wonder who has set up all these clues and why whoever it is wants them to be solved. Even then, you won't be able to figure it out. Langdon can't, and he knows everything. Of course, he's suffering from short-term amnesia, he's dashing from place to place like a tourist with one day to cover Italy, and people with guns are chasing him, but his real problem is just that nothing is as it seems.

In one of my writing classes the instructor pointed out that it's generally a bad technique to describe the main character by writing something akin to "I looked and the mirror and saw the same brown hair, the same 6'1" man with schlumpy shoulders and hang dog look that I had seen for all of my fifty-two years."

It was at that point that the instructor paused and said, "I mean unless your Dan Brown." At that point he went through the top ten techniques never to use and pointed out that Dan Brown broke everyone of them in the first three chapters of The Da Vinci Code.

But it was this article, Dan Brown's Secret to Keeping Secrets by Alexandra Alter that really piqued my interest. In it she writes:

For Mr. Brown, who has made a name for himself writing novels about explosive revelations and codes, secrecy is paramount. So he uses a technique that he has mastered as a thriller writer: misdirection.

"If I'm trying to keep things secret, it's impossible to talk to these specialists without them saying, 'Oh, my God, you wouldn't believe who was here today and what he was asking,' " Mr. Brown says. "These trips usually take longer than they should, because out of 10 things I see, five of them have nothing to do with the book. I'm constantly trying to keep people guessing as to what I'm doing."

I guess this speaks to me if only cause it makes me wonder what it would be like to have thousands of ardent and adoring fans that they would actually care with a passion about when the next novel is coming back. I have two or three, I'll let you know when I hit two or three thousand. Maybe next year.

Still, they're both worth reading when you get a mo.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

First Lines

Yet another in the first line series. This one comes from Alex Berenson's The Ghost War. I read Berenson's The Faithful Spy and didn't find it too bad. Kinda fun to read in fact. I'm hoping for the same from this novel. So far, as it hits on North Korea, one of my faves, it's headed in the right direction.

This is not just the first line, but the first few passages. I found the most poignant stuff several paragraphs in. It was worth getting there though:

TED BECK WALKED WEST DOWN THE ROTTING PIER, squinting through his wraparound sunglasses into the late-afternoon haze. He moved without haste. He’d arrived early, and the boat he’d come to meet was nowhere in sight. 

At the end of the dock, trash from three countries—China and the two Koreas—bobbed in the dank water, the eastern edge of the Yellow Sea. The air was heavy with smoke from the ships that docked at Incheon every day to load up on cars and televisions for the United States. The sun had baked the fumes into a brown smog that burned Beck’s throat and made him want a cigarette. 

He fished a packet of Camel Lights from his pocket and lit up. He’d tried to quit over the years. But if he was going to sign up for missions like this one, what was the point? He smoked slowly and when he was done flicked the butt away. It spun into the harbor, joining the empty beer cans and condom wrappers. 

Then he heard the low rumble of a boat engine. 

Incheon was an industrial port fifty miles west of Seoul and a few miles south of the Demilitarized Zone, the strip that separated North and South Korea. During the Korean War, General Douglas Mac-Arthur had landed here, cutting behind North Korean lines to stop the Communist advance. 

A statue of him stood atop a hill not far from this pier. Binoculars in hand, the general looked out to the Yellow Sea, which separated China and the Korean Peninsula. This afternoon, Beck would head into those waters, on a mission smaller than MacArthur’s assault but just as dangerous. 

The rumble of the distant boat grew louder. Beck pulled his wallet out of his pocket, a battered piece of cowhide that had seen him through thirty-two countries and three counterinsurgencies. He wasn’t carrying any identification or a passport, just money. About $3,000 in all. And three pictures: his wife and their two sons. He took out the pictures and kissed them. 

Then he flicked his lighter to them and watched them burn, holding them as long as he could, until the flames singed his fingers and he had to let them go. Their remnants sank into the water and drifted away.

Berenson, Alex - The Ghost War

Yeah, so don't you want to know why he burned up the pictures of his family and flicked them away? I do.

P.S. Yes, this means I gave up on A New World, Chaos. I just couldn't make myself care that much about Zombies.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Do You Validate?

I ran across a small blog post by Anna Jones Buttimore entitled Why I Prefer Traditional Publishing. I read it with an eye toward wanting to enjoy it and understand the author's point of view, but one of the final passages made me a bit angry.

According to Miss Buttimore she has published, through traditional means, several books. The first two made her some profits the third not so much. She has seen very little from her self-publishing ventures. She writes:

My sixth book, co-written with my friend Hellen Riebold, was self-published because of its controversial subject matter. Royalties from that, so far, are zero. Well, not quite zero, but Amazon only send you a cheque once your royalties reach a certain level, and we're not there yet.

It's obvious she's got some arguments about the structure of royalties from Amazon, that she doesn't want to go into in this article. If she had I would refer her to this post I wrote last year about Andrew Hyde's book "This Book is About Travel." The post is good, but what I would commend enthusiastically is the hyperlink embedded in the post (this one) for the breakdown of royalties from different means that Mr. Hyde provides.

Then she hits the reader with this passage, and this is the one that got my ire up.

Those things are all very nice. But actually the reason I like traditional publishing best is because of the validation. I like knowing that someone believes in my work enough to invest in it. I like imaging that industry professionals think I'm good at what I do. I like being taken seriously as an author: when anyone with any level of talent (or none) can put out a book, I like being set apart from them and recognised as someone whose work was actually put into print based on its own merits.

Validation from the publishing world is not something I'm after. Validation from my readers is what I want. There is a significant difference. In just the few, small, bites I've taken from the publishing worlds buffet I've not been impressed. I see a lot of nepotism, a lot of glad-handing and too much subjectivity. This is not sour grapes, in fact before I self-publish I throw my manuscript out to a few agents to judge their reactions. 

I think that the publishing world has evolved into a morass that makes it very difficult for new authors with no connections to find a place. The method of submission is abbreviated, truncated and ambiguous. The rules are arcane and petty. The subjectivity is off the scale, and based on the results of popular writers like Hugh Howey (of Wool fame) and J.K. Rowling, its not at all precise. 

So, I agree with Miss Buttimore that we are all seeking Validation, but I disagree with the direction from which she is expecting it or hoping for it. The publishing industry was long overdue for a shake up and personally I'm glad to be in the middle of it and living through it. 

Monday, May 20, 2013

Make Up Your Mind Will Ya?

I used to love Stephen King novels. I remember reading Salem's Lot in high school and jumping when someone came up behind me cause I was so enthralled and wrapped up into the novel. It was genuinely scary!

I remember reading Christine one summer and thinking that it was good but could have been better had King not belabored so many themes. I still liked it, but like many of his books I felt that he had a tendency to get too preachy  as if the pacing of the writing didn't match the pace of the story. The Stand, Tommyknockers, Carrie, Cujo, IT, Misery, Pet Sematary, The Shining, Firestarter,  . . . I enjoyed them all.

Then came The Dark Tower, which I gave up on, and The Talisman . . . another that I just couldn't wade through.

With each of his newer works I found myself less inspired to commit. I tried but quite reading Gerald's Game, Bag of Bones and Dolores Clairborne. I finished Needful Things but felt like it had been a waste of time.

I read The Green Mile with skepticism and really only did so due to the marketing of it as a serial. I ended up happy to have read it. Then I tried Hearts in Atlantis and On Writing. Having even wanted to read a book of his since. If anything I've wanted to go back and read some of my old favorites. Wouldn't you love to read The Stand again? I wonder if it's as good the second time? Also, he's incredibly prolific. Take a look at the bibliography . . . extensive doesn't even begin to describe it.

Now King is in the news for his most recent book, Joyland. This article by Jefferey A. Trachtenberg entitled Stephen King Says No to E-book, to Scare Up Business has me just a bit irritated and bemused. I like the fact that King was an author who tried new things in publishing. I may not like is more recent novels, but I liked that he was willing to try new things, even if they were old things. The Green Mile experiment, publising Riding the Bullet as an e-book all the way back in 2000 . . . these all seemed like things that were designed to push the envelope so to speak in the publishing world.

Now this? He has no plans to publish his book as an e-book? Smells of curmudgeondom to me.

Mr. King's latest move to make "Joyland" only available as a physical book is essentially the reverse of what he did in 2000, when he became one of the country's first writers to make a new work available exclusively in a digital format. Then, CBS Corp.'s CBS +3.97% Simon & Schuster publishing arm issued Mr. King's 16,000-word ghost story "Riding the Bullet" as an e-book priced at $2.50.

The tone of the article suggests it's being done to "save" the bookstore. Don't get me wrong, I was a lover of bookstores, but just because I loved em doesn't mean I think we should stop their demise. I love the Pony Express, but I don't think it should be used when there is FedEx and UPS and airlines to transport the mail.

If King is hep to save something and wants to harken back to the good old days, as a lover of his earlier works I would encourage him to go back to the style of writing and the themes that made him so popular in the first place. (Now who sounds like a curmudgeon). Then again, perhaps I should give his newer works another look. It's been a while since I tried reading a King book, I wonder if I'll like the new stuff now that I'm older. I can tell you this though, . . . if I do decide to invest it a Stephen King novel . . . it's going to be an e-book . . . if only to twist the knife a bit.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Read Out

I think I read myself out. My reading list lately has included:

Andromeda Strain - by Michael Crichton
Dirty Martini - by J.A. Konrath
Fight City - by James Scott Bell
The Man in the Mist - by Agatha Christie
The Girl Who Cried Wolf - by Robert Ferrigno
and I just started a well reviewed book A New World: Chaos - by John O'Brien

I'm having a hard time getting into this A New World: Chaos book. I wrote the other day about being on the cutting edge of current events. In that post I used the example of Texas secession. I think that's what O'Brien has done with his A New World series of books.

While looking for a new book the other day I saw a very well reviewed A New World book and in order to start the series I started with book one. It may have been too big a jump for me. I'm not commonly a huge fan of fantasy and this one is about Zombies taking over the world. O'Brien is trying to make it intriguing and gripping but so far he has failed.

Granted, I've been lately going through some fairly intense life changes so perhaps that, combined with the intensive reading I've been doing lately, has left me just a bit read out. I'll give O'Brien a few chapters till I give up. Like I said with The Girl Who Cried Wolf I almost stopped, but now I'm glad I went on.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Critique Groups Again

I always find interesting things in The Kill Zone so I never feel bad about promoting that site or re-posting  What's funny is that so often I find myself completely agreeing with whatever they say.

This most recent post, called Getting pecked to death: Are critique groups worth it? by P.J. Parrish is just as good as the others (here). The article is pretty well structured with both good advice as well as some great thoughts on critique groups. I was in a critique group for awhile and didn't like it one bit, the whole story is laid out in other posts (here). Long and short is that it was a mixture of too many different genres and skill types. I'd rather have one or two dedicated writers like myself to count on.

This is where the article by P.J. Parrish yielded some fruit. Down near the end is this nugget (here) about the best methods or tricks of the traded in setting up or finding your own critique group.

Although I ostensibly agree with what Stephen King said in On Writing about not being a fan of critique groups. The last one I used was online and it wasn't bad. I might use it again if the tricks on the linked page don't pan out. But now, I think I'm at a point where I need that critique group around me.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

As a Texan I Should Have Seen This Coming

There was an article a few days ago in the WSJ called The Yellow Prose of Texas? Secession Movement Blooms in Fiction by Miguel Bustillo, and boy does it ever fill me with regret.

A couple of years ago I remember talking about the secession movement in Texas with a buddy of mine. We both agreed that it was terrifically silly, but that as a chance to brainstorm and pontificate it provided lots of material. I should have made that next jump and thought about it in terms of thriller writing and fiction.

the Prose of Texas article is all about people who took that spark that I remember and blew on it to make it flame up. You want to know what? I think they all sound like lots of fun and if I didn't already have so many other ideas I'd probably start trying to think of my own.

"The Secession of Texas" by Darrell Maloney of San Antonio envisions an independent Texas with its own border patrol, guarding against people trying to sneak into the country illegally—from Oklahoma.

"Lone Star Daybreak" by Erik L. Larson of Houston tells the story of recruits in the Texas Defense Force, a militia that protects the separatist state from Yankee armies. "Yellow Rose of Texas" by Dennis Snyder describes a U.S. saddled with $22 trillion in debt, a defanged military and a leftist president who promises to remove religion from public life, prompting an armed and economically vibrant Texas to declare that it has had enough.

Like I said, they all sound like fun and at least one needs to be on the to be read list. I will say this though, the next time I'm at a friends house and ponitificating the strangeness of a movement or an event or anything at all, I'm going to try and imagine a "what if" scenario and find a way to write it into a book.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Thriller Writers Listen Up

I may not ever read the book that inspired this post by James Scott Bell at The Kill Zone, I find most 40's and 50's noir to be much the same, but this post, 11 Keys to Making Your Novel a Page Turner has some good advice.

There are some really good passages in there to read, but the eleven keys are:

1. A decent guy just trying to find his place in the world
2. The trouble starts on page one
3. Unpredictability
4. A nasty but charming bad guy
5. Sympathy for the bad guy
6. A spiral of trouble
7. A love triangle
8. A crisp style
9. A relentless pace with a tightening noose
10. Honor
11. A resonant ending

Without the supporting text some of these may be scoffed at, but whilst scoffing I encourage you to jump over to post and read the passages following each key. You will find great advice like this that bolsters the second key, starting the trouble on page one:

HE WAS DRIVING AN MG—a low English-built sports car— and he was a tire-squeaker, the way a wrong kind of guy is apt to be in a sports car. I heard the squeal of his tires as he gunned it, and then I saw him cutting in front of me like a red bug. My car piled into his and the bug turned over, spilling him and the girl with him out onto the street.

Turns out the other guy and girl are not hurt. The guy walks over to Jim and sucker punches him. He's about to stomp Jim's face into hamburger when the girl who was with him grabs him from behind.

The guy's name is Buddy Brown. The girl is Wild Kearney (her real name. Love it!) And immediately Jim is drawn to her—another noir trope. She is a "bronze-blonde" but "looked like the kind of girl that would be with winners, not losers, top winners in the top tournaments and never the second-flight or the almost-good-enough. Not the kind of girl that I'd ever known."

So here we have both violence and potential romance from the start. And the Lead is vulnerable in both toughness and love.

The rule here is simple: Don't warm up your engines. Get the reader turning the page not because he's patient with you, but because he needs to find out what is going to happen next!

I have that series about the importance of first lines and first passages. Whenever I need to spell out why I continue that series I might refer to that final paragraph. "Get the reader turning the page not because he's patient with you, but because he needs to find out what is going to happen next!"

Anyway it's a good post, well worth reading to provide a boost to any writer. And who knows, maybe I will read John McPartland's Big Red's Daughter. If it pulled James Scott Bell into a "fictive dream" it might be well worth the time.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Word Wiz Jr

It's a Saturday so I won't feel too bad about slipping in a post that's not related to writing or publishing. I have a series about words my kiddo's say (here), and today I'm adding a couple more.

First, my three year old was running around for weeks saying "I'm a Biz-ommy." Had NO idea what this meant. At least not until he held his hands up and came at me like Frankenstein's monster. He's a "big zombie" don't you see. I liked it.

He also pointed at the helicopter and said, "Heli-hop-ter" which I also thought was apropos.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

The Book is Better than the Opening

I'm trying a new book, from a writer I don't know, that seems fairly political. The Girl Who Cried Wolf by Robert Ferrigno is so far a fun and interesting book to read. The first line would have to be pigeon-holed in the "not so great" category though. In fact the first few chapters should be slated as such. Thankfully it picked up by chapter five.

GLENN PUMPED AWAY on the swing, rusty chains creaking as he watched the last of the sunbathers lazing on their towels, legs crossed, bodies tangled. Music drifted from cars in the parking lot. Little kids played tag with the crashing waves, foam tickling their bare feet as they dashed out of reach, squealing. He swung higher now, pulling himself straight into the clear blue sky, leaving the earth behind. The setting sun hung just above the horizon, the Pacific streaked with red and purple and gold. Toxic as far as the eye could see. If he thought about it too hard, his head would explode. 

Eli rinsed off under the shower at the edge of the beach. A short, muscular surf rat in knee-length jams, he was an amped-up nineteen-year-old with crackling blue eyes and sun-bleached dreads. He turned off the shower, shook out his hair, and sauntered over to the swing set. “Tree’s still not back? You think something’s wrong?” 

“Everything’s wrong.”

Ferrigno, Robert - The Girl Who Cried Wolf

It doesn't necessarily make me want to read on, but it's not too too bad. Truth be told, I almost put the novel down at about chapter three. But, like I said, chapters five and onward make it worthwhile.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Following a New Blog

If you look to the right you'll find links to the blogs that I commonly go check out. I've added to the list recently. I've found that most bloggers who run their own blogs, as compared to blogs that have a host of writers who write an article once a week or once every two weeks a la The Kill Zone, are far more apt to stop posting for several weeks even months at a time. This is an occurrence that I try to avoid.

Nevertheless whilst rambling around Thriller Ink I found this article by James N. Roses entitled Maybe I Write My Book Backward. It's a really good article. It was good enough, anyway, to make me eschew reposting an article on writer self discipline that was posted on The Kill Zone.

Mr. Roses is experiencing a bit of an author identity crisis. He's not sure what genre his books truly fall into. He says:

I guess I could always label my books as dramatic, contemporary thriller/mystery fiction novels, but I’m yet to come across that section in the bookshop.

Then goes on to say:

I feel it is important to just tell the story I want to tell. So far my novels are based in the real world, no sci-fi as yet, and because of this, my work will always include the highs and the lows, the problems and the solutions if there any, and good and the bad, the serious and the funny.

So, why do I find this compelling? Years ago while shopping around Toe the Line I ran across an agent who disagreed with a premise in my query. I wrote imagine Dick Francis with a focus on adventure racing instead of horse racing. Then later I wrote that it was a mystery. This agent said that I was wrong in choosing mystery as a genre and saying that I write like a thriller writer like Dick Francis.

I remember I chose mystery for a reason. I read many many books on writing and publishing (see here) and most of them identified or defined mystery in a certain way and thrillers in a different way. I chose mystery for a specific reason. Among many other reasons I remember an editor I had defined Thrillers as needing to have international destinations and globe trotting protagonists.

Slightly simplistic? Sure. I found it funny that that editor, who had several oddities, his thriller definition not at all the strangest, but that there are so many blurred lines in the industry. Does Dick Francis write thrillers or mysteries? Does Diane Mott Davidson write thrillers or mysteries? Its a funny, blurry line in so many cases.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Unlimited Funds Please

So far I've only been able to purchase four (perhaps five depending on how you see it) e-readers. I got my first e-reader, a 2nd Generation Kindle, back in February 14th. I think the iPad came next. Then the iPhone, the 3rd Generation Kindle, and finally the Kindle Touch. I know that a while back I thought about Nook, but  mostly I just wish I could test drive these suckers before I buy them so I can tell just what kind of differences there truly are.

What started this thinking? This article in the WSJ called The Best E-Reader: Kobo's Aura HD.

According to the article the Aura HD is:

the first model that rivals the printed page. The biggest improvement is the screen—it displays text at 265 dots per inch (dpi), compared with the Kindle Paperwhite's 212 dpi or the Nook SimpleTouch's 167 dpi. While the differences between the numbers may seem relatively inconsequential, the Aura HD's higher resolution makes text markedly sharper. The screen is slightly larger, too: 6.8 inches diagonal instead of the 6 inches that are standard today—a subtle increase that fits considerably more words on each page.

But, and this is what I don't like about e-readers in general:

For those who have invested in e-books from Amazon or Barnes & Noble, switching to the Aura HD won't be easy. Most e-books purchased from each store are only viewable on that brand's devices. (Hopefully, this will change; six years after the iTunes Store launched, it began selling music that could be played on any device, not just iPods.) But Kobo's store is just as sprawling as its competitors', with over 3 million titles.

It will be nice one day when I can read an e-book on any e-reader, but that's a different post. Right now, how bout a loaner site? A rent-to-own e-reader company that will send you an e-reader to try for a bit before you decide to buy it. Conversely I could just become a better writer, get more followers and have one sent to me for review. I'll start noodling both of these tactics. Eventually one will come true.

Monday, May 6, 2013

List of Twenty

Over at The Kill Zone Boyd Morrison has a post on Hunting Down the Muse. It's all about what authors and writers should do when they are looking for their next book idea.

I've heard many of the techniques he brings up, from continuing on in your daily writing routine to writing what you know, etc. One I had never heard before was using a list of twenty.

Writing down twenty ideas. The first ten will be typical. It's those last ten that will make a write use their creativity and strive to make an idea unique. Thinking outside the box so to speak.

One technique that I’m trying was suggested by my agent. It’s called the List of Twenty. You come up with a list of twenty of ideas for a novel. The first ten or so will be obvious, so obvious that someone else may be having the same idea as you’re typing (which is why we end up with situations like two movies this year about the White House being taken over by terrorists).

But when you exhaust those first ten ideas, you start having to come up with more unusual and off-the-wall ideas, and that’s where you find the gold. Those are the ideas likelier to be unique and amazing.

It's not a bad idea. I hope to have to use it soon cause that will mean that I am done with my third novel.

Friday, May 3, 2013

First and Perhaps the Last

So I am reading another J.A. Konrath book, this time it's Dirty Martini, and I'm not sure that it's going to inspire me to read anymore.

Now that I am fan of Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plumb series, which anyone who has read this blog would know (if not see here), and which is rather strange considering my history, I don't know if I'm going to be reading another Konrath book from the Jack Daniel's series. Ostensibly they are similar styles but Konrath's are less refined and more gory. I'm not sure if I'm a big enough fan of gore to warrant another investment in the series.

As far as the first line goes, not too great category for sure:

No security cameras this time, but he still has to be careful. The smaller the store, the more likely he’ll be remembered. 

He’s dressed for the part. The mustache is fake. So is the shoulder-length hair. His facial jewelry is all clip-on, including the nose ring and the lip ring, and his combat boots have lifts in them, adding almost three inches to his height. He’s wearing a Guns N’ Roses T-shirt that he picked up at a thrift shop for a quarter, under a red flannel shirt that cost little more. The long sleeves hide the tube. 

When they interview witnesses later, they’ll remember his costume, but not his features.

Kilborn, Jack; Konrath, J.A.  - Dirty Martini

Sorry, just not good enough or intriguing enough to be in the great category of first lines. But that might be part of the reason that I'm not inspired to read more from the series.

Thursday, May 2, 2013


This is going to be a three-fer in that this post is going to provide a first line, a last line and a review of a book that I read most recently. It was a bit of a short story or novella, so there wasn't too much to it. That being said there were some gems there that I wanted to point out. The first and last lines weren't stunning, at least not as stunning as some of the analogies which are near the end of this post.

First line:

"That's the last time you break a date with me, Jimmy Gallagher. I'll thank you not to call on me again!" 

Me and Ruby were sitting in Charley's on Figueroa, where Ruby waits tables. She wasn't working at the moment, though. She was busy being steamed and I couldn't blame her. She doesn't like me fighting, and the night before I'd been in a bout set up by a pal, Kenny Spivey. He was moving a lot of dough and needed me for the card. He's got a little girl with polio and that can run into money, so I thought I'd help him out by taking on a local boy making his way up the ladder. He was a big kid, young and strong, but I know a few things after twenty-five years of lacing up the gloves (I started when I was ten back there in Boston, Golden Gloves).

Last line:

“I’m so sorry I’m late,” she said. “Forgive me?” I put my hand under her chin, tilted her head up and kissed her lips. I looked into her deep blue lamps and said, “I will this time, honey. But don’t let it happen again.”

Bell, James Scott- Fight City

Like I said there are a lot of great analogies in this sucker. It takes place in the 1950's with a first person point of view and the patois of that time. My favorite I put up at the top. The others are short and sweet like rabbit punches that are thrown in throughout the novel.

I looked up and saw a big side of beef coming at me. He wore an open collared short-sleeved shirt. His arms had muscles in places where most men don't have places.

Then there were these three:

My thoughts were oatmeal, sloshing around in my skull.

Jack Walsh hit me in the stomach with a fist made of reinforced concrete.

Time ticked by as slow as a Scotsman counting his coins.

One of the things I hate is figuring out what to read between novels. I will get to the end of a long book and have really enjoyed it, then I'll want to get to the next good novel, but I'm not quite ready to make the switch. This is a switch book. It's short, fun, and made for a great switch book. The one thing I didn't like was that it read like a series of disparate vignettes and there was no circling back and linking it all together into fully cohesive story. There was no sum up. It was just Jimmy trying to make a date and overcoming the hurdles that the world threw at him. I would have liked to see a bit more cohesiveness to all the hurdles and challenges.

Still, anyone who is looking for a switch book or a inbetweener book, this was a good one.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Quick Turn Around

I may have enjoyed Andromeda Strain too much. The first line I posted yesterday, the last line is today. I didn't even allow anyone to truly let that first line sink in before I closed the circle with today's post.

“But things are now under control,” Stone said. “We have the organism, and can continue to study it. We’ve already begun to characterize a variety of mutant forms. It’s a rather astonishing organism in its versatility.” He smiled. “I think we can be fairly confident that the organism will move into the upper atmosphere without causing further difficulty on the surface, so there’s no problem there. And as for us down here, we understand what’s happening now, in terms of the mutations. That’s the important thing. That we understand.” 

“Understand,” Hall repeated. 

“Yes,” Stone said. “We have to understand.”

As last lines go it can hardly be called compelling, particularly when compared to the first line, neither would I put it up against some of the best last lines and passages that I've compiled over in the last lines series and hope to get a win. 

What I find interesting, and this is where this post is going to serve as last line and book review, is that I found the book wholly unexceptional. I liked it, don't get me wrong. It was interesting and quick and fun to read, but exceptional? Hardly.

Crichton exceptional means Jurrasic Park or Prey. This didn't make the cut. Neither did State of Fear, sadly, which I felt was preachy and poorly written. Still, what I like about going back and reading thrillers from this era is that it shows me that I'm on the right track. There was nothing in Andromeda Strain that couldn't have written myself in a different way and just as compellingly. There is hope for aspiring authors to do something great, eventually. The Odessa File, The Dogs of War, Red Storm Rising, Digital Fortress, all of these serve to show that authors who went on to great renown and eventually great writing started somewhere. Hopefully I'm starting somewhere near the same place.