Thursday, December 19, 2013

Not Shifting My Views

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

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

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

Donald could hear her breathing. 

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

‘You may not like what you find.’ 

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

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

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

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

Howey, Hugh - Shift Omnibus Edition 

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

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Some of These Seem Familar

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

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

~David Pepper, Hermosa Beach, CA

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

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

~Mike Pedersen, North Berwick, ME

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

~Barry Bozzone, Allentown, PA

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

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Donald's a Douche

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, December 16, 2013

I've Been Looking Forward to This One

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

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

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

Howey, Hugh - Shift Omnibus Edition

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

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

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Today's Last Line

Dortmunder threw the lever and opened the rear door. 

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

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

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

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

Westlake, Donald E - Jimmy the Kid

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

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

Tuesday, December 10, 2013


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

Westlake, Donald E - Jimmy the Kid

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

Monday, December 9, 2013

Last Line for Plum

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

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

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

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

Evanovich, Janet - Notorious Nineteen

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

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

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

Friday, December 6, 2013

American Pickers

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

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

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

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

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

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

Evanovich, Janet - Notorious Nineteen

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

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

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Going to Have to Go On the Bad List

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

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

“It’s broken,” I told her. 

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

“It’s stuck closed.” 

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

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

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

Evanovich, Janet -Notorious Nineteen

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

Monday, December 2, 2013

Been Awhile

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

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

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

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