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