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.