Wednesday, May 7, 2014

There It Is Again . . .

 . . . the ever-present description of "morning" (see all the other mentions here) This time I found it in Tucker by Louis L'Amour.

Twice during the endless night I woke up, once from the pain of my wound, another time from the cold. I felt sick and very tired, and when morning came at last, a gray, dull morning with slanting rain and lowering clouds , my mouth was dry, my head ached, and when I tried to stand I was weak and dizzy. But I knew I must move. If I stayed where I was, in the state I was in, I would surely die.

L'Amour, Louis - Tucker

Not half bad as far as all the morning descriptions go. I think one day soon I will compile them all into one large post so I can compare them.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Those of you who read this blog often realize that not only am I firmly in the midst of a  first person point of view narrator reading binge (see here), but also I sometimes will throw a Louis L'Amour western just for kicks (here). Not only are they first person, but they offer a walk down memory lane for me, having read so many as a child. I was about to start a new Lee Child novel, for his Jack Reacher character so often reminds me of a L'Amour western (here), but I wanted to show Tucker (here) in first just to get in the right frame of mind.

WHEN I RODE up to the buffalo wallow pa was lying there with his leg broke and his horse gone.

L'Amour, Louis - Tucker

Short, sweet, to the point as far as first lines go. Not quite epic, but not bad either. Kinda what you expect to get from the rest of the book as well.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

All Out of Order

I just realized I got all out of order with that last book, McNally's Secret by Lawrence Sanders. I forgot to post the first line, and boy is it a doozey. So, to make up for that oversight, today I offer the following:

I POURED A FEW drops of an ’87 Mondavi Chardonnay into her navel and leaned down to slurp it out.

Sanders, Lawrence - McNally's Secret

Now I'm a fan of Sanders, so I was going to read on regardless of the first line. But for non-fans I would imagine this would be the type of line to make a fellow read on.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Expected Melancholiness

Count on a melancholy ending when you read a Lawrence Sander's novel. McNally's Secret is no different. This novel ends with this:

We finished our margaritas. I signed the tab and we went outside, Connie wearing my new hat. It galled me, a little, that it looked better on her than it did on me. 

I opened the door of the Miata for her, but she paused and gripped my arm. She looked into my eyes. 

She said, “Do you think we might get back together again?” 

I said, “One never knows, do one?”

Sanders, Lawrence - McNally's Secret

It was a good book, a tad to "fluffy" for my tastes, but that could just be that I'm overwhelmed by first person mysteries at the moment. I yearn for some meat in my literary diet. I want a book on the craft of writing, or a Charles Dickens tome, or something long and sweeping like Lonesome Dove or Shogun. A world building experience to take me away. McNally's Secret that was not. Still a good book and I love Archie.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Another Morning . . . Another Blog Post

I was wondering what I was going to write about today, there's a great post (here) at The Kill Zone, a great one on why writer's need editors (here) also at The Kill Zone, then there is a terrific infographic (here) that I found on the Corner.

Then I read this:

I came out into a nothing morning , the sky as colorless as a slate pavement, the air unmoving and damp. It was bloody hot , and a nice, refreshing cloudburst would have been a blessing. But that leaden sky offered no shadows and no hope. All in all, a grayish scene— enough to depress the most chipper of do-gooders and make one ponder the value of crawling out of bed on such a blah day.

Sanders, Lawrence - McNally's Secret 

Not so much a line about the morning, as I've been cataloging (here), but more of a passage. A good one too.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Game of Thrones Recap

Anyone who has read this blog knows that I like the Song of Ice and Fire (aka Game of Thrones) (see here) series of books. I am a part of a silly little group on the Facebook that shares ideas about Game of Thrones, both show and book. I hear from friends at work and otherwise about the books and the show. I've read, and continue to re-read the series prior to the release of each new book. So far, this article in the WSJ (here) by Marshall Crook, could be one of the best regarding the characters in the series then anything I've yet read.

As I have said before (here) I love the characters that Martin is able to develop for his books. They are excessively deep, each has their own story, and the plots and sub-plots all weave together in and out, in and out almost interminably. But Crook says it best regarding the greater usage of the characters as a part of the story:

Jaime’s sexual assault of Cersei is just one cruelty in an episode full of them: Ser Dontos is killed with a bolt to the face moments after delivering Sansa to Littlefinger.  Arya and the Hound enjoy the hospitality of a farmer and daughter, but then the Hound robs them of their silver as Arya helplessly looks on. In both cases, callous self-interest was the only motivation. Littlefinger kills the drunken knight to ensure his silence. And the Hound robs the farmer because the farmer is weak. Weak people don’t survive, so what does he need the silver for anyway.

Or take the peasant boy, who watches Thenns and wildlings murder his parents. They are people the Hound won’t mourn: The vulnerable ones.  They pop up in the show occasionally, when the writers need to remind us of the hefty collateral damage in Westeros.

Ygritte shot an arrow and killed the boy’s father.  She is as ruthless and capable as the Hound. It is a cue to recalibrate our perspective from time to time, and remember that just outside the walls of each unfolding castle are commoners living and dying at the whims of kings and bandits.

It's an article worth reading and I look forward to more from this source.

Being both a reader and a watcher I've always felt that the show leaves alot to be desired. The characters are far more alive on the page than on the screen. It's nice to see that from the WSJ perspective those characters come off not just as representatives of something larger, but just as deep and rich in their own way as the book's characters.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Shouting Into the Wind

Sometimes I feel like my whole writing life is just shouting into the wind. You know what I mean. Throwing stuff out there and hoping that someone hears it but all the same you're pretty sure no one does.

This blog for instance. Sure I get some traffic. Any responses? Painfully few. Then again, how many of the blogs that I read do I respond to? Painfully few.

Another wind shouting aspect of my writing life? Self publishing. How many books have I actually sold? A handful. I've gotten some good reviews but sales . . . not so much. I will say that some of the best self-publishing marketing dollars that I have spent has been on Goodreads, but that's a topic for another time, when I review my self-publishing marketing schemes (see here for more).

For now I'll just keep on a-shouting and hoping that someone hears me. Hope I don't go hoarse in the mean time.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Evanovich and Parker . . . Two Peas in a Pod

This could be the worst ending of any of the Stephanie Plum series of novels. I mean way to phone it in Janet. Still, just like I mentioend yesterday (here) about reading a Robert B. Parker novel, you kinda have to expect that.

All in all a fun read, but wow, that was a terrrifically bad ending.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

That Went Fast . . . Perhaps Too Fast

I finished Sixkill by Robert B. Parker before I even got around to my review of Evanovich's novel. Now my timing is going to be all mucked up.

When you go into one of these novels you have to expect that it will be fast and easy and fun. This was all three. So if I look at the author's intent I give him a 10 out of 10. Sadly, it pushed absolutely no boundaries. You get what you get and you don't throw a fit.

I'm running out of first person genre mysteries to read though.

At least the last line is nicely prosaic.

WHEN I GOT BACK to Boston I changed into sweats, put some clean clothes and a shaving kit in a gym bag, and went down to the Harbor Health Club. I lifted weights. I hit the speed bag. I hit the heavy bag until the sweat was all over me and soaking through my shirt. Then I went to the steam room and sat for a long time. When I came out, I showered and shaved and put on my clean clothes. 

It was still raining when I came out of the club. But it seemed to me that it was getting a little lighter in the west. Over Cambridge. Where Susan lived. 

After the rain lifted, the world would probably seem as freshly washed as I was. The cleanliness was almost certainly illusory, or at best short-lasting. But life is mostly metaphor, anyway. 

I got in my car and drove west.

Parker, Robert B. - Sixkill

Monday, April 14, 2014

Been Awhile

I love the way his cynicism for life drips through even in the first sentence.

IT WAS SPRING. The vernal equinox had done whatever it was it did, and the late March air drifting in through the open window in my office was soft even though it wasn’t really warm yet. Spring training was under way in full tiresomeness, and opening day was two weeks off.

Parker, Robert B. - Sixkill 

Been awhile since I read a Robert B. Parker book. I think the last one I read was Hugger Mugger and I remember my grandfather looking at it and saying "sounds like its about an overzealous prostitute." What I'm trying to do here is overwhelm myself with first person genre mysteries. It helps me get in the right frame of mind for my own book. Pretty soon I'll be out of this phase and I can get to some other types of books.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Hot Money . . . Never Knew It Existed

I thought I had read all the Dick Francis books. I'm so glad I was wrong. Lately, as I reread them, I naturally find them less than original, less fun to read. It's so nice to find one I didn't know existed and recapture that fun and esteem that comes from reading a book like Hot Money.

It's a typical Dick Francis novel. A mild-mannered protagonist who is forced into helping someone out of a jam inspired by a murder, usually involving a strange or estranged family and always involving horse racing. Nothing new to see here, except I really liked it. I guess the newness came from finding it in the first place.

The last lines are also typical, the main character has gone through an adventure and grown, usually spiritually and closer to a loved one, but ultimately he is the same person who started the novel.

“Did you notice I’d taken the golden dolphin and the amethyst tree and so on out of the wall and put them in the sitting room?” he asked casually. 

“Yes, I did.” 

“I sold the gold too.” 

I glanced at him. He looked quizzically back. 

“The price rose sharply this year, as I thought it would. I took the profit. There’s nothing in the wall now except spiders and dust.” 

“Never mind.” 

“I’m leaving the clause in the will, though.” 

The family had been curious about his leaving me the piece of wire, and he’d refused to explain.

 “I’ll buy more gold, and sell it. Buy and sell. Forward and backward. One of these days”— his blue eyes gleamed—“ you may win on the nod.”

Francis, Dick - Hot Money

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

First Line at the Moment

Back to an old standard.

Lately, I've been spending a lot of time rolling on the ground with men who thing a stiffy represents personal growth. 

Hard Eight - Janet Evanovich

So, it's not "It was the best of times. It was the worst of times." but right now it's exactly what I need right now to help me get to the end of my own (somewhat fatuous and one dimensional) novel.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Yet Another Taker

Hot on the heels of Mom's Thumb Reviews (see here) comes this one from Hong Konger Laura Besley (here).

Miss Besley, who also read my first novel, Toe the Line (here), says of this one:

On the Edge is almost two books for the price of one: present Joe and past Joe.


These two threads of the story are cleverly woven together and feed into the ever-building climax at the end. 

And finally, this . . . my favorite part:

Overall this is an enjoyable thriller and is recommended for people who enjoy murder mysteries.

I'll take that. Didn't get a five star review on Goodreads, but five star equals "It was amazing." Four star equates to "Really liked it." I'll take it and use that missing fifth star as motivation to finish Vapor Trail.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014


Savvy readers of this blog know that I compile a list of "last lines" (see here) as a counter-punch to my first lines (see here) compendium. Secondly, it helps me remember which books I've read and what I thought about them. That being said, today's latest addition is below.

I sighed and went into the bedroom to phone. I had two calls to make. The first to Al Georgio, telling that estimable man that no, I would not marry him. The second to Jack Smack, telling that flighty tap dancer that yes, I would move in with him. 

You can be logical about other people’s lives, but never about your own.

Sanders, Lawrence - The Eighth Commandment

It's a slight twist at the end. I expected the protagonist to choose Al. It's fun to see that she didn't.

As I said before (see here) I love Lawrence Sanders' McNally mysteries and I am loving reading his older material even more. There's more seriousness, more gravitas, and the stories are more fleshed out. This was the first I've read of his where he got into the mind of a femme and I have to say I think he did it quite well. I wish he had written more.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Next First Line

This is a new one for me. I thought I had read all of Dick Francis' work, . . . nope . . . looks like I missed one.

I intensely disliked my father's fifth wife, but not to the point of murder.

Dick Francis -  Hot Money

Based on the comments, it looks like this is out of print, so thank goodness for the ole Kindle.

Readers might also note that I've reading a lot of first person, genre mystries. I'm trying to get the mindset right for finishing up Vapor Trail, my third novel. I wouldn't call it "writer's block" so much as "writer's ennui." It works though. The more of the style I read the more I think, "Hey, I can do this. I can knock this out."

Still, glad to be reading something new at the same time.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

A First

Some books and authors just resonate with me immediately (see other first lines here). Lawrence Sanders is a reseonater apparently. I'm surprised I'm compelled tor read on, but I am.

MEN TREAT ME WITH amusement, women with sympathy. My name is Mary Lou Bateson, but the nickname “Dunk” followed me from Des Moines to New York City. I am almost six-two— in my bare feet. When I wear heels, I loom— or so a man once told me. 

“Don’t worry about it, Dunk,” Daddy advised. “People look up to you.”

That will give you an idea of his quirky sense of humor.

Sanders, Lawrence - The Eighth Commandment

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

I'm Big Into Flowcharts . . . But . . .

I write a lot of flowcharts for work, and I understand their abilities and the need, but this one . . . not a huge fan of the style, but I love the outcomes (see here).

I'm sorry I can't properly reference where I got it, I found it on a reddit site and I can't refind it. I'll let the title speak for itself, but I was surprised by how many of the books I've actually read! A more pleasant surprise, there are still a lot more to be read.

My favorite, Vernor Vinge (see here) is on the far right side of the chart, right near my other favorite, Asimov (here for more).

Well worth a click see (here) if you're a sci-fi or fantasy reader.

Monday, March 10, 2014

King Rat no King

Having written my own first novel (here) . . . and seen how much better (even marginally) my second novel is compared to that first one . . . its good to see that other novelist's first also screamed "FIRST TIME NOVEL!"

By no means am I equating myself to James Clavell, but King Rat, although good, was nowhere near the mind blowing epic that Shogun was (you can see my review of Shogun here) then again Tai Pan wasn't as good as Shogun either. King Rat was not only not as good as Shogun, but it had all the hallmarks of being a first novel. Somewhat clunky, plot lines that got lost, the feeling of "wow . . . it would have been better had he done such and such rather than that."

That being said, it was still quite good. It reminded me of Catch-22 in many ways, but with far more heart. The ending was tragic to read, and the come-uppance by the main character interesting. I love the foil he used, it reminded me in that way of The Great Gatsby. But there was alot that Clavell left on the table. 

The last line? A tad trite. He describes what happens to the rat breeding program.

And Adam ruled, for he was the King. Until the day his will to be King deserted him. Then he died, food for a stronger. And the strongest was always the King, not by strength alone, but King by cunning and luck and strength together. Among the rats. 

Clavell, James - King Rat

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Sometime the Title Grabs Ya

Many people love noun groups like Murder of Crows or Wisdom of Owls. I was perusing Goodreads when I ran across this one.

I don't know if I would have used the term "Rapture" for a group of Nerds. Or perhpas he means "rapture" in the biblical sense. If it is the first case I would have thought "a class of nerds" or "a study of nerds" would be more apropos.

Still, probably won't read it.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

I Find it Interesting

You may not, but I find this interesting. Then again, based on the covers I prefer for my novels (see here), I'm partial to stick figure iconography.

I found this and am re-posting it from VA Viper (here). It shows stick figures representing the ways in which characters die in Shakespear's plays (see here). My favorite:

See all of them here.

Friday, February 28, 2014

Cons: None . . . I'll Take It

Cons: None. Pros: well written, great plot, realistic fiction, realistic characters. Her Rating: Thumbs Up.

All of these I will gladly take in regards to the book review I just received from Mom's Thumb Reviews for my book On the Edge (still available here for a super discounted price!).

The review (here) which was posted on the 20th, is yet another not too bad one. Keep in mind that I asked Miss Carr to review my previous effort, Toe the Line (even more discounted here) as well as others (here and here), so she's a bit of a fan. But this time I think she too thinks that I've gotten a bit better at writing.

His imagination is colorful, artistic, creative, and detail oriented.  He creates fiction stories and spins real life examples into his novels for a great adventure for all of his readers. 

I agree with her.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Diagramming First Lines

Anyone who reads this blog even sporadically will know that I enjoy logging the first/opening lines/passages that I come across. I organize them all for quick reading by linking to there (here). I've even started categorizing good vs bad lines and have a listing of last lines (here) and lines about the morning (here).

I ran across a post on Metal Floss that has 25 first lines diagrammed out. The post, 25 Literary Opening Lines Diagrammed on One Giant Poster by Hannah Keyser is fun to check out. I haven't diagrammed anything in years, probably not since eighth grade, but seeing these first lines blocked out like this, really is interesting to see.

My favorites?

I'll leave it to you to de-diagram out these first lines to determine whose and from which books these first lines come, or to follow the link and see it first hand.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

My Modern Met

I was tooling around My Modern Met the other day and ran across these two posts that caught my fancy. The first one, Terry Border Brings Old Books to Life with Wire is described this way:

Artist Terry Border gives new life to old books in his latest series titled Wiry Limbs, Paper Backs. The artist, who is no stranger to breathing new life into inanimate objects, utilizes his handcrafted technique of bending wires to serve as limbs and combines it with a great sense of humor. Each whimsical creation in the ongoing project is a sculptural work that stands on its own, reflecting its respective text.

My favorite piece is this one, but the whole series is worth looking over:

That little suitcase is a perfect bridge to this second link, Artist Transforms Books into Exciting Sculptural Stories which I also found on My Modern Met.

Ships, monsters, and mermaids pop out of books handcrafted by Delta, Pennsylvania-based artist Jodi Harvey-Brown (aka wetcanvas). Taking inspiration from the materials themselves, each three-dimensional scene the sculptor constructs reflects popular works of fiction. Whether it's a calm depiction of an outing from The Wind in the Willows or a rigorous struggle from The Old Man and the Sea, there is a sense of motion in the simulated waves.

Although these don't speak to me as much as Terry Border's work, these are still fun to look at too. This, from Return of the King, particularly was fun to see.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

King Rat First

“I’m going to get that bloody bastard if I die in the attempt.” Lieutenant Grey was glad that at last he had spoken aloud what had so long been twisting his guts into a knot. The venom in Grey’s voice snapped Sergeant Masters out of his reverie. He had been thinking about a bottle of ice-cold Australian beer and a steak with a fried egg on top and his home in Sydney and his wife and the breasts and smell of her. He didn’t bother to follow the lieutenant’s gaze out the window. He knew who it had to be among the half-naked men walking the dirt path which skirted the barbed fence. But he was surprised at Grey’s outburst. Usually the Provost Marshal of Changi was as tight-lipped and unapproachable as any Englishman. 

“Save your strength, Lieutenant,” Masters said wearily, “the Japs’ll fix him soon enough.”

Clavell, James - King Rat

The first line/passage, as well as his other works had me thinking that this was going to be a serious, sonorous and heavy novel to read. So far, 25% in, it's not looking like it which is both good and bad.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Finished Kristory's Book

I don't commonly read romance nor mythological fantasy novels, so this was way off the beaten path for me. BUT, I read, and liked Kristi's first effort, The Corpse Goddess and enjoyed it (see my review here), and felt compelled to give her second book a try as well. 

I really liked Valkyrie's Kiss! Kristi's writing is fluid and fun and the themes, descriptions of characters and the overall story were well fleshed out and intriguing. Although I don't commonly go in for romances, Kristi was able to integrate it smoothly into the story. Her tone and voice, which is fun, nicely descriptive without being overbearing or boring, and compelling might be the reason I keep coming back to her novels. 

My complaints? It wasn't long enough. It was like an amuse bouche. Whetted the old appetite but I wanted much more. A tad more story, a bit more meat on the bone, a few more thousand words. But as a short diversion from the mysteries and thrillers I commonly read, and a quick sojourn into a genre I'm not used to, it was nicely done.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

A First Time Thriller

Whether out of spite (here) or not, I'm glad I read Daniel Suarez's Daemon.

Engaging? Yep. Easy to understand? Yep. Fun to read even if you have a bit of an IT background? Yep again.

It reminded me of when the reader discovers who the enemy in Wool is (here). The one critical point I have? It became a tad prosaic in the final few chapters, far too rote and stereotypical. I also didn't care for the fact that the book ended in a cliff hanger. I like resolution in my novels, no matter how long that might take or how expansive the novel must become.

Still, it was gripping. Daemon reminded me of when I read Jurassic Park and stayed up till 2 AM to finish it.

The last line of the book is:

Sebeck gazed back along the road behind them— away from the blue thread. He thought of his previous life. Of those he’d left behind. Of the sheriff’s department, Laura, and his son, Chris. Of everyone and everything he’d ever known. Peter Sebeck was dead.

Suarez, Daniel - Daemon 

Naturally if we want to know what happens to Sebeck we must read his next book, Freedom.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

It's a Tautology

I'm telling you it's just something that authors love. They love to write about the morning in their works (see here). Here are two that I've spotted so far in Kristi's.

First this one:

The morning dawned with its usual luminescent brightness. Jess slept beside me,

Then this one:

The night blended into a dark and rainy morning.

Jones, Kristi - Valkyrie's Kiss

Not a bad thing mind you, just a feature of "professional" writing. I'm glad to see that based on the evidence, Kristi is now firmly "coach class" (here).

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Sure Its a Bit Romancy for Me

Yes, this is outside my the typical genres I read, but I know the author and always support local artists.

I wanted to kiss him the moment I laid eyes on him, but of course that was the one thing I most definitely could not do. The young girl with the AK-47 held him steady in her sights.

Jones, Kristi - Valkyrie's Kiss 

I read Kristi's earlier work (here) and really liked it. This one is even better (so far). Plus I think she's gotten better with first lines.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Pulp Covers for a Holiday Post

The other day I wrote about Big Red's Daughter (here and here) and how much the book didn't agree with me. One thing that did agree with me was the cover art I found. Despite what some may think of my covers, which are meant to evoke a Dick Francis cover (here), I really dig cover art. I remember years ago tooling through the aisle at Bookstop ranking my selections for purchase purely on the cover. I read some doozies based on this one criterion.

I ran across a series of cover's (here) that stoked my interest by following a link at Stuff You Should Know (here). My favorites are listed below.

This first one I like purely for the fact that I want to read it to find out what the hell is happening. Is he trying to stage a murder or saving her from herself.

This second one I enjoy if only for the title. The cover is good, but just how have the characters determined the sexual proclivities of Satan? That's what I'd like to know.

Finally, this one I love just because it could be the title slide for this blog.

There are more out there on the site (here) and they're quite fun to see. These were just my favorites.

Good News

It is with an exhale of relief that I read the article in the WSJ regarding Apple and the "Star Chamber" that they had been saddled with.

I've posted intermittently  on this over the past few months (see here) but my ire spiked when I read:

 "Mr. Bromwich says he must oversee Apple's "corporate structure, process, culture and tone" and the "tone at the top of the company," 

In my last post on the subject. I don't believe that the "tone" of any company should be overseen by the Federal Government.

But The Apple Vindication which showed up in the WSJ the other day may indicate a shift in direction. The opening passage is: 

So Michael Bromwich won't be Apple's AAPL -0.42%  prosecutor in residence after all. On Monday a unanimous three-judge panel of the Second Circuit Court of Appeals reined in his abusive inquest and admonished his sponsors, the Justice Department and especially Judge Denise Cote.

They certainly aren't through with their difficulties, but this is movement in the right direction. 

Friday, February 14, 2014

I'm Reading this for Spite

Much as Jerry Seinfeld returned his jacket in the episode The Wigmaster, like I said last week, I'm reading Daemon by Daniel Suarez out of spite.

Thankfully, although I'm reading it out of spite, I'm really enjoying it.

The first few lines got my attention and Mr. Suarez has kept my attention so far through chapter 4.

What the hell just happened? That was all Joseph Pavlos kept thinking as he clenched a gloved hand against his throat. It didn’t stop the blood from pulsing between his fingers. Already a shockingly wide pool had formed in the dirt next to his face. He was on the ground somehow. Although he couldn’t see the gash, the pain told him the wound was deep. He rolled onto his back and stared up at a stretch of spotless blue sky. 

His usually methodical mind sped frantically through the possibilities— like someone groping for an exit in a smoke-filled building. He had to do something. Anything. But what? The phrase What the hell just happened? kept echoing in his head uselessly, while blood kept spurting between his fingers. Adrenaline surged through his system, his heart beat faster. He tried to call out. No good. Blood squirted several inches into the air and sprinkled his face. Carotid artery… 

He was pressing on his neck so hard he was almost strangling himself. And he’d been feeling so good just moments before this. He remembered that much at least. His last debts repaid. At long last.

Suarez, Daniel - Daemon

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Apropos to Be One Day After Yesterday's Post

On the heel's of yesterday's post, where I lambasted Big Red's Daughter for being a pointless, waste of time to read, comes this post.

For years I would answer people who ask that my favorite writer is Dick Francis. I loved that he wrote about horse racing, but every main character wasn't necessarily a jockey. Instead he took bites from around the periphery of racing which made it so much more interesting. I loved that his writing was just flowery enough, to the point and quick but with enough color to make it fun. I loved that although he had a series, every main character was a new one. Each book was fresh and new but at the same time a reader and fan knew basically what they were going to get.

I won't be able to answer so easily anymore for I think that Lawrence Sanders might be my new fave.

I fell in love with Lawrence Sanders' books late in his career. I've written in this blog about how much I enjoy his writing (here). That seems appropriate if only cause Sanders started writing late in his life. Still, I loved the McNally books. They were vibrant and fun and the fact that Archy could list the ingredients of his gourmet lunch so succinctly, or run by the Pelican Club for a vodka gimlet at nine in the morning or wear his puce beret with such aplomb. What did I dislike? They were a tad too frolicsome. They lacked gravitas.

I found the gravitas that was lacking in The Sixth Commandment. I can't wait to read all of Sanders' earlier works now that I know what to expect. It was as if I was reading a Robin Cook mystery (I generally find the writing too trite) and an Archy McNally novel. It was a terrific blend of serious mystery and fun loving life liver. There were still the early morning gimlets, the alcoholism, the spectacular vocabulary and too in depth descriptions of wardrobe, but in The Sixth Commandment there is a reason for it.

The final passage, which loses something by not reading the entire chapter, is:

About 9: 30 P.M., on my third highball, I gave up, and sat down near the phone, trying to plan how to handle it. I brought over several sheets of paper and the sharpened pencils. I started making notes. 

“Hello?” she would say. 

“Powell,” I’d say, “please don’t hang up. This is Samuel Todd. I want to apologize to you for the way I acted. There is nothing you can call me as bad as what I’ve called myself. I’m phoning now to ask if there is any way we can get together again. To beg you. I will accept any conditions, endure any restraints, suffer any ignominy, do anything you demand, if you’ll only let me see you again.” 

It went on and on like that. Abject surrender. I made copious notes. I imagined objections she might have, and I jotted down what my answer should be. I covered three pages with humility, crawling, total submission. I thought sure that, if she didn’t hang up immediately, I could weasel my way back into her favor, or at least persuade her to give me a chance to prove how much I loved her and needed her. 

And if she brought up the difference in our ages again, I prepared a special speech on that: 

“Powell, the past week has taught me what a lot of bullshit the whole business of age can be. What’s important is enjoying each other’s company, having interests in common, loving, and keeping sympathy and understanding on the front burner, warm and ready when needed.” 

I read over everything I had written. I thought I had a real lawyer’s brief , ready for any eventuality. I couldn’t think of a single way she might react, from hot curses to cold silence, that I wasn’t prepared to answer.

I mixed a fresh drink, drained half of it, picked up the phone. I arranged my speeches in front of me. I took a deep breath. I dialed her number. 

She picked it up on the third ring.

“Hello?” she said. 

“Powell,” I said, “please don’t hang—” 

“Todd?” she said. “Get your ass over here.”

I ran.

Sanders, Lawrence - The Sixth Commandment

I can't wait to read more.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Not My Style?

For just a moment I wondered if Hard Boiled, 1950's era, noir style detective novels were for me. This soul searching came as I finished John McPartland's Big Red's Daughter and threw it away in pseudo-disgust at having wasted so much time reading it.

Why did I question my views on this genre? Because I hated Three For the Ring as well. I found it hollow, pedantic and silly. Same reasons I didn't like Big Red's Daughter. But, as I looked through my blog I saw two that I remember liking. There was Ross MacDonald's The Imaginary Blonde and John D. MacDonald's On the Make. Granted, I liked Ross much more than John, but I remember liking both of those far more than this last one.

I read Big Red's Daughter because I saw a blogger I like recommend it. Never again. A more pointless, less well written, with more pathetically fleshed out character's I don't think I've ever read.

Maybe I should go try another Ross MacDonald just to get my legs under me again.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Not Bad Leading to Horrid

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. 

By the time our iron touched I'd swung my car to the right, so it wasn't much of a crash. I climbed out in a hurry, angry and ready to go. 

The MG pilot was up and ready to go, too. The girl was beside him, brushing the skirt over her long legs. Nobody drew even a scratch out of the bump. 

This was a tall, lean lad with a pale face and hot, dark eyes. I saw that much before his left fist smashed into my face. Not a Sunday punch—a real fighter's hard, straight left.

McPartland, John - Big Red's Daughter

The first few lines do not represent this book. This might be one of the first in this first line's series where a great first few lines does not mean a great book.

I've logged great first lines that herald a terrific book (see here). We've had horrible first lines and great and/or good novels (see here). We've had horrible first lines precede horrible novels (see here). This could be the first where we've had a decent/good and even great first few lines and a rotten book.

Friday, February 7, 2014

An Answer to Yesterday

As an answer to the article that I posted to yesterday (here), one may either read this compelling (and for this blog record breaking in length) comment that Kristi  (one of our more avid readers) posted at the bottom of this page or one could read the article I'm posting today.

Today's article is taken from the WSJ and is written by Eben Shapiro and is titled Daniel Suarez Sees Into the Future. The article does little to counter Mr. Maass' claims during the first 50 to 60%. It deals with a new book by Suarez called Influx and how many expect Suarez to replace Crichton and Clancy.

In the publishing world, there is a growing sense that "Influx," Mr. Suarez's fourth novel, may be his breakout book and propel him into the void left by the deaths of Tom Clancy and Michael Crichton.

And they touch on his writing by saying.

"He has an uncanny ability to take bleeding edge, incredibly complex technologies and blend them into a fascinating story," says Mr. O'Brien, the cybersecurity expert.

But then there is this nugget.

He began writing in his free-time. Rejected by 48 literary agents—(a database expert, he kept careful track)—he began self-publishing in 2006 under the name Leinad Zeraus, his named spelled backward. His sophisticated tech knowledge quickly attracted a cult following in Silicon Valley, Redmond, Wash., and Cambridge, Mass. The MIT bookstore was the first bookstore to stock his self-published books in 2007. Picking up on that buzz, literary-agent Bridget Wagner Matzie approached him and landed a publishing deal with Dutton in 2008. (She no longer represents Mr. Suarez.) "It took a lot of convincing to get him to go mainstream," she said. "He said, 'I want to write for my people. I don't want to dumb it down.'" Mr. Suarez left the software consulting business and began writing full-time in 2007.

I'm going to break my resolution and buy his books if only cause he is/was "Freight Class" and wanted to stay that way!

Gotta love a story of writing success.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Freighters Unite

Although he has written what is without a doubt my favorite book on the craft of writing, Writing the Breakout Novel, Donald Maass has not written my favorite article in Writer Unboxed with his effort titled The New Class System.

Although there are several points I agree with, among them:

e-books have not hurt the print publishers but rather have helped them. Especially in the recent recession, low-cost/high-margin e-books have been a bright spot. They’ve kept publishers profitable even as brick-and-mortar book retailing has shrunk and consumers have grown cautious. 


Second, the self-publishing movement has been a boon to the print industry. Far from being threatened, print publishers instead are now gratefully relieved of the money-losing burden of the mid-list. 

I don't agree with this snippet:

High success at self-publishing has happened only for a few who have mastered the demanding business of online marketing.

I think there are far more authors out there who have found success in the self-publishing world over and above just those who have mastered the business of online marketing. Just as there are videos out there that go "viral" so have some books. The one that pops to mind first is Wool. That sucker got started from pure word of mouth and good reviews. I think the same could be said for Diane Gabaldon's Outlander series.

Maass then goes on to discuss the new class system in publishing as he see's it; Freight, Coach and First Classes. If I am on the train at all (doubtful) then I am firmly in the freight class. I aspire to Coach, and think with each new effort I get closer to it.

My writing buddy Kristi (who first told me about this article) intoned that she wasn't too much pleased with the conclusions, but it actually tends to follow the model that Donald Maass wrote about in Writing the Breakout Novel. Although I may not have said it succinctly, or at all, in my review of the book it comes across (as I recall) quite clearly. Maass seems to believe that if an author has not achieved that breakout novel, a well-written, engaging, intriguing better than the rest book by their third published effort than it's time to pack it in and try something else.

I don't believe that. If the past few novels I've written have shown me anything it's that my writing gets better with each draft. At this pace where will I be when I'm 50?  (Speaking of 50 year olds, my new favorite author (more on this in coming days) didn't publish his first book until he was 50 and then went on to greater and greater success. Stay tuned for more on that!)

Maass does leave himself an out. He says near the end of the article:

In the world of publishing, though, it’s not like that. Authorship is a true meritocracy. (Sorry, it is.) In publishing there is social mobility. As an author you can change your class, though of course it’s not always easy to do so. It takes education, time and effort. It means seeing yourself differently, having courage and violating the norms and expectations of your community. (One of the most common laments I hear is, “I got published…and lost a lot of my friends.”)

What class will I be in when I'm 50? I hope I'm firmly in coach.

Keep in mind, in terms of railroads there's no money in passenger travel, look out how many passenger train business models fail, is Amtrak a success? Name one passenger rail system that is as profitable as freight (see here). Freight is where the big money is. Go ask Warren Buffet. Maybe I should be happy with Freight class and find some way to make money off all the other Freighters out there working the keys with me.

Still, The New Class System is an interesting view into the world of the publisher and as always I would highly recommend his book, Writing the Breakout Novel.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

A Color of Snot Morning?

I looked toward the light coming through the window. It was the color of snot; I knew the sun wasn’t shining. I wasn’t hung over. I mean my head didn’t ache, my stomach didn’t bubble. But I felt disoriented. And I had all these problems. It seemed easier to stay exactly where I was, under warm blankets, and forget about “taking arms against a sea of troubles.” Hamlet’s soliloquy. Hamlet should have spent a week in Coburn, N.Y. He’d have found a use for that bare bodkin.

Sanders, Lawrence- The Sixth Commandment

Never fails, . . . . there's going to be a description of "the morning" in every book.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Not Much Into This Genre

Although I don't necessarily lean toward this genre, unless we're talking about a Vernor Vinge novel, I took a flyer on Roger Lawrence's Three Hoodies Save the World due in large part to his contributions to this blog and my resolution to not pay more than 3 bucks for books this year.

I read a Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy when I was a kiddo, and I LOVED that first scene, the scene with the bulldozer claiming imminent domain followed by the aliens doing the same to Earth. From then on it went down hill in my estimation. I liked it, but I was never as much a fan as others. That being said, I thought that Three Hoodies Save the World was quite similar in that it felt like I was being taken on a crazy, wild ride and just wanted to see where things went.

There were a few things that screamed "this is a self-published book" just as you would find in my first effort, Toe the Line, but the author has an impeccable ability for cliff hangers that make you want to read on at the end of a chapter and for foreshadowing. I was confused about the action several times and that might be the worst I could say about the story.

All in all I look forward to reading the sequel.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Sixth Thing First

I chewed through Lawrence Sanders' McNally Series and loved every single moment of them. I think I may have liked them too much. It's nice to go back in time a bit and read his early stuff. It's like seeing the conception of Archie McNally but in a rougher, less refined manner. Plus, that's a pretty damn good first line.

LATE NOVEMBER, AND THE world was dying. A wild wind hooted faintly outside the windows. Inside, the air had been breathed too many times.

Sanders, Lawrence - The Sixth Commandment

Friday, January 24, 2014

Every Now and Then

Every now and then I post on the future of e-readers, self publishing, and trends in the digital publishing age. I knew and have discussed the difficulties that Apple is experiencing due to their apparent, suspected, (unproven) price fixing of digital content for their iPads, and I was duely aghast. I was not aghast enough, based on this article I read in the WSJ today.

The Apple Inquisition goes into a lot of detail for an opinion piece and even more subdued outrage at what is happening to Apple. I followed right along with my own outrage. Among the passages that caught my attention:

Mr. Bromwich says he must oversee Apple's "corporate structure, process, culture and tone" and the "tone at the top of the company," 


The improper relationship between Judge Cote and Mr. Bromwich extends beyond their friendship, political ties and ex parte communications, as we reported in December in "Apple's Star Chamber." Special masters are usually imposed on companies in negotiated legal settlements and the litigants consent to the terms of their appointment. Yet Apple is appealing Judge Cote's injunction and the terms of Mr. Bromwich's installation.

The core problem is that under Article III of the Constitution judges aren't allowed to conduct open-ended investigations, as Mr. Bromwich is doing. To the extent his position is legitimate, he is serving as an agent of the court. Judges can appoint surrogates to help carry out their judicial duties, but in that case they must be as objective and impartial as judges.

But the worst is:

Mr. Bromwich's declaration is filled with what he regards as personal slights, such as the fact that Apple scheduled interviews at a remote location instead of its Cupertino headquarters. But his main accusation is that Apple is "using its outside counsel as a shield to prevent interaction between senior management and my monitoring team."

So try to sort this one out. An agent acting on behalf of the judiciary volunteers to become literally the star witness for the plaintiffs. This arm of the court then claims that the defendant's right to counsel is preventing him from conducting his adversarial investigation.

I haven't even posted the passages about the veiled threat.

The worst part in my view is how under-reported this all is. Imagine this happening to another company?

The silver lining? This too was reported today in the same paper. Based on that . . . looks like Apple is still plugging along well ahead of the competition. I'll keep my stock.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Right Now

My foray into the three dollar or less realm is working out A-okay so far.

Interstellar war was not at the top of David’s schedule as he jumped excitedly out of bed. At nine o’clock on Saturday morning such absurdities even plummeted below the trivial status of maths homework. 

Today, on his actual birthday, all that mattered were the tangible demands on a fourteen year old boy’s life. In strict order these were: looking cool, finding a girlfriend, not getting into trouble and of course, looking cool. A little shallow perhaps, but to a teenager the only realities worth considering.

Lawrence, Roger - Three Hoodies Save The World 

Is it as good as finding a stranded man in the middle of the Black Sea (see here) . . . perhaps not, but it's certainly enough to make me want to read on (I'm a third of the way through now).

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Finished a Great One

This year I'm saving some of my really good books. Anyone who reads this space will remember that one of my resolutions is to pay no more than $2.99 for a book this year (see here). Thank goodness I had an unread stockpile of brandnamers in my library. The Devil's Advocate by Frederick Forsyth was one such stockpiled book.

If you are looking for a book worth the money, with depth of story and intrigue everywhere, this could be it. Unlike Avenger, also a good book, this was rich with plot. It was similar to a John LeCarre in terms of spy master thriller, and like Tom Clancy's Red Storm Rising in that it focused so much on geopolitical positioning during the cold war.

The final line? Unlike the first line (here) it doesn't offer the reader too much. But the final twist that reveals who the real spy master is occurs just one line prior so I had to cut and paste carefully.

The impassive major with the cold eyes drew at Munro’s elbow; he was outside the Throne Room, and the door closed behind him. Five minutes later he was shown out, on foot, through a small door in the Savior Gate onto Red Square. The parade marshals were rehearsing their roles for May Day. The clock above his head struck midnight. 

He turned left toward the National Hotel to find a taxi. A hundred yards later, as he passed Lenin’s Mausoleum, to the surprise and outrage of a militiaman, he began to laugh.

Forsyth, Frederick - The Devil's Alternative

Best one I've read for awhile, and probably the best for some time based on my resolution.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Since I Posted that Last One . . .

. . . I thought this one should get some play as well.

I'm sure many of you have already seen this, probably on a t-shirt, but this is my first exposure to it. Can't wait to use it myself.

And that leaves out the <sarcasm> little </sarcasm> issue of Benghazi. The Senate Intelligence Committee report is at once a fascinating and utterly banal artifact of Washington. It identifies a huge mistake. It denounces said mistake. It concludes that the mistake could have been prevented. But nobody is responsible for the mistake. The bureaucracy did it! Jonah Goldberg - National Review, Hillary the Hyped

Now, regarless of the political leanings of the sours, that sarcasm tag, " little " is tres funny to me.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Posted Without Comment

I never do this but this seemed apropos.

(found via Newsbusters)

Friday, January 17, 2014

Good To Remember

I found this link of quotes to remember when starting out writing via Mental Floss. Twelve Quotes from Authors to Remember When Staring Your First Book by Jason Krell I found on I09. I found the below quotes the most enlightening.

"People on the outside think there's something magical about writing, that you go up in the attic at midnight and cast the bones and come down in the morning with a story, but it isn't like that. You sit in back of the typewriter and you work, and that's all there is to it." - Harlan Ellison

The past few nights have taught me the meaning of this maxim. The stories I'm writing now may never go anywhere but the process of writing them, the daily/nightly grind, it's all part of the work that hopefully makes me a better writer.

"Books aren't written, they're rewritten. Including your own. It is one of the hardest things to accept, especially after the seventh rewrite hasn't quite done it..." - Michael Crichton

I've read this one before and it is so true. I was stunned by how many re-writes my books go through. Vapor Trail, the novel I'm currently working on, is nowhere near the book it started out as, and it's had the fewest re-writes of any of my novels.

As someone who despises the "rules" for writing that he keeps hearing and reading about, I particularly loved this quote:

"There are three rules for writing. Unfortunately, no one can agree what they are." - Somerset Maugham

Reading the other nine quotes is definitely worth the time invested.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Word Wars Work

Due to circumstances beyond my control I'm having to miss my first "write in" this week. So as much as Kristy is trying to keep the writing group going, I am, apparently doing my darndest to undermine her work. That being said, I have written 2500 more words than I otherwise would have thanks to Kristy's and her sister's motivation.

Word wars work. I heard about them over the course of the last few NaNo's but never joined in. But in this case, it works. A quick couple of "hello's" via chat, someone sets a timer then says "Go" and fifteen minutes later you stop to see where you are. I have been hitting over 600 words in 15 minutes pretty faithfully. Sadly, it's not in the arena that I want.

I want to go back and re-write my Vapor Trail manuscript. I started using Scrivener to write my 10 key scenes for Vapor Trail, and I'd like to see where I am with that sucker, but these word wars hardly offer the opportunity for deep thought and re-writing.

They are more like brainstorming sessions where you are forced to throw stuff up against the wall and see what sticks. What's sticking now is a short story, so my resolution will be proud.

That being said, the positive note to glom onto is that I'm two word wars in and I'm 2500 words ahead. If I focus on bailing on the write-in (where I hoped to work on Vapor Trail) and the lack of a coherent story in my novel, well . . . who wants to hear about that!

Monday, January 13, 2014

Yet Another First

Yet again Frederick Forsyth delivers a first line that makes me want to read on.

The castaway would have been dead before sundown but for the sharp eyes of an Italian seaman called Mario. By the time he was spotted he had lapsed into unconsciousness, the exposed parts of his near-naked body grilled to second-degree burns by the relentless sun, and those parts submerged in seawater soft and white between the salt sores like the limbs of a rotting goose.

Forsyth, Frederick - The Devil's Alternative 

I started this series of cataloging the first lines I read because there seems to be so much importance attached to those first few words (the last lines and morning series were offshoots, but not created due to some perceived importance). I think we've fairly well established that although alot of import is attached, its no fundamentally the reason that a reader continues to read. I've kept on reading some books following horrific first lines, and quit on others that had pretty good firsters.

Conclusions? It's good to have a great first line or passage, but it's better to have engaging characters, a driven and well thought out plot, and a story that readers want to read. Great first, last and morning lines are all just icing on the cake.

Friday, January 10, 2014

On the Heels of the Russell Blake Post

The other day I blogged about a WSJ article that discussed the work ethic and writing life of Russell Blake. The article described his prolificness as well as how he wrote.

He churns out 7,000 to 10,000 words a day and often works from eight in the morning until midnight. He spends many of those hours on a treadmill desk, clocking eight to 10 miles.

So, that's a tad odd right? Try these oddities among writers that I found via Mental Floss in their article The Incredible Eccentricities of 20 Great Writers. My favorites?


The short story guru was like everyone else: He woke up, put on a suit, and went to work. And unlike everyone else, he took an elevator down to his apartment building’s basement, stripped off all his clothes, and wrote in his underwear.



Schiller worked late at night, so to keep the sandman away, he’d dip his feet in ice-cold water. But it gets weirder: Schiller always wrote with a bunch of rotten apples stowed in his desk drawer. He said the smell motivated him.

and my very favorite:


To keep on task, the Greek orator would shave half of his head because it forced him to stay inside and work. Plutarch writes, “Here he would continue, oftentimes without intermission, two or three months together, shaving one half of his head, that so for shame he might not go abroad, though he desired it ever so much.”

Finally there is this one, that seems like it's quite Russell Blakian in terms of output.


No one worked harder than Balzac. He’d wake up at 1:00 a.m., write for seven hours, take a nap at 8:00 a.m., wake up at 9:30 a.m., write again till 4:00 p.m., take a walk, visit friends, and call it a night at 6:00 p.m. To fuel all that writing, he threw back upwards of 50 cups of coffee per day.

Perhaps this is my problem. I'm not odd enough in my writing style. All I do is sit at a desk with a cup of coffee.