Saturday, December 31, 2016
Tuesday, November 29, 2016
Did you know that when you're travelling and you're in the eastern time zone and you wake up an hour and half early you're really waking up two and a half hours early? Now I do too.
By the clock I actually woke up forty-five minutes late, but it feels so early since I'm in Baltimore. I wish that the entire US was more like Arizona. Why? I like their time change and time zone policies. I hate the daylight savings time change. I hate time zones more but at least I understand their usefulness in today's modern world, that can't be said of the "spring forward, fall back."
Still, just like I said yesterday, it works (here). I'm up and I'm writing. It may not be great writing but it's writing. We'll sort out whether it's good or bad during the edit phase. For now, I'm just glad I'm writing.
Monday, November 28, 2016
First, regarding the Miracle Morning I've been working on for the past couple of weeks (see here and here), . . . yes, it is definitely working. I am waking up early, the tools that the book lays out are effective and yep, after two weeks it is getting much much easier to wake myself up. Even after three days away from the tools since I was camping, waking up early to take on my day is working quite well.
"Working" also means that I am working on my writing. Slowly but surely, mostly due to my waking up early, I am working on my novel. It's not huge swaths of churning out thousands and thousands of words like it used to be when I traveled alot, but it's a couple hundred words at a time. This morning for instance I probably only wrote 700 words, but it's 700 words more than I otherwise would have written.
Another benefit, now that I've churned out those 700 words I'm more ready now to write a few thousand on my trip to Baltimore today. I'm about to spend the next several days in Baltimore. Traditionally I write a ton on trips (see here). I suspect when I add up my word count at the end of the day, 700 will not be my daily limit.
Miracle Morning routine . . . highly recommended.
Wednesday, November 23, 2016
Now, I'm not far enough into the book to talk to four of these, but I hit two of them this morning. I did Silence and Exercise. It wasn't a lot of exercise like the other day, just an early morning dog walk, and instead of having the ear buds in to listen to music, I went with Silence.
Is it working?
First, yes, it's becoming easier and easier to wake up. I find myself to be less rushed and less harried each morning.
Second, with coffee, writing in the morning becomes much much more enjoyable. Right now I'm in the midst of writing a summary. I have a great start on my fourth book and a terrific short story that it's based on, but I don't have an outline or a direction for the book after the first few chapters. Writing out this summary is really helping with that.
I've always been more of a "pantser" than a "planner." I'm a write by the seat of my pants type of guy. But I'm beginning to believe that I need more a plan to write this fourth book, so I'm writing out the summary to figure these things out.
I wrote a hand-written summary the other day that was five or so journal pages, and now I'm typing it up, in the process it's being refined and added to.
So, does the Miracle Morning work? So far so good!
Monday, November 21, 2016
I may have run a bit too long to get much writing done today, but I felt bad for the dog having been in a kennel for the last week so I think I erred on the right side in that case.
I have found that two key tasks are left off the the list of how best to wake up. I did the re-affirmation, I did the alarm clock away from me trick, I got my running clothes out, I brushed my teeth and drank my water. The two tasks that I think I would add are "set your coffee maker" and an addendum to that, or a critical path, "have coffee in the house."
I'm a coffee addict, not because I love the taste, but I think I love it because I have so many wonderful associations with coffee. Without a second thought I can easily say that my favorite memories of my life include coffee. When you're on day two of the Miracle Morning and it's about forty degrees outside and you come inside to write, it would be real nice to have a nice cup of coffee with ya.
Sunday, November 20, 2016
I am in the midst of reading a book called the Morning Miracle for Writers. It's a self-help book cum writers craft book much like the ones I used to read and review. I've hardly started but so far I'm taking this sucker to heart. It's primary theme of course is to wake up early not only to write but to get a jump on the day. I've started following it's teachings and trying out the five key steps to increasing my Wake Up Motivation Levels (WUML).
First - Affirm to yourself before going to bed that you really will wake up early. This goes along with the philosophy that the last thing you think upon going to bed will be the first thing on your mind when you wake up. Not a hard one to master, but very effective.
Second - The old standby; set the alarm clock far away from the bed. I've heard this many times before, I will now live by this maxim.
Third - Have ready a full glass of water and drink it when you get out of bed. Not bad for the biology and not hard to do.
Fourth - Brush your teeth first thing. Nothing better to get you awake then brushing teeth.
Fifth - Get dressed. Again, not hard. In my case it will be in workout clothes as I will be adding a sixth.
Sixth - Go for a jog, walk or run with the dog. Get that blood flowing and the brain juices percolating.
So far I'm one day in, and except for having the dog with me I followed the steps above quite closely. So far so good. The fact that I have also re-started my blog on the same day that I started this exercise of waking up early makes me think it will be a successful enterprise for my writing life as well as my everyday life.
My first novel, Toe the Line was written in the pre-dawn hours. I woke up almost every morning at 5 AM to crank it out. I've noticed lately my time to write has become less and less easy to find. Sometimes I'll carve out evenings to write but when evening comes I find an excuse not to write. Hopefully going back to morning writing will be just what my writing life needs.
Tuesday, August 23, 2016
I remember going to Hawaii as a child and enjoying it immensely. My mother enjoyed it immensely too, but what I remember her enjoying the most was a book I was reading at the time called, Norman Schnurman, Average Person (see here). I still remember the title, not just because it has an interesting one, but also becuase on that trip my mother ran out of books to read and had to turn to mine. She loved Norman Schnurman and I remember her telling her friends about the book even after we came home.
I was determined not to run out of books so I took Stephen King's The Stand (see here).
Yet another old favorite (see here) I read the Stand back in high school and loved it. I'm enjoying it again. I took it to Costa Rica in a paperback form. That didn't last and now I'm on the Kindle. It's a long one, and it's been unabridged since I read it the first time, still just as good as I remember. It grabs the reader from the very beginning and off it goes on a wild ride.
“Wake up now, Sally.”
A louder mutter: leeme lone.
He shook her harder.
“Wake up. You got to wake up!”
Charlie’s voice. Calling her. For how long?
Sally swam up out of sleep.
First she glanced at the clock on the night table and saw it was quarter past two in the morning. Charlie shouldn’t even be here; he should be on shift. Then she got her first good look at him and something leaped up inside her, some deadly intuition.
Her husband was deathly pale. His eyes started and bulged from their sockets. The car keys were in one hand. He was still using the other to shake her, although her eyes were open. It was as if he hadn’t been able to register the fact that she was awake.
“Charlie, what is it? What’s wrong?”
King, Stephen - The Stand
Friday, August 5, 2016
This is hard-boiled crime with a military twist. Think Dashiell Hammett meets Lee Child meets John Locke. The protagonist's almost clinical lack of empathy is shocking at first, then the speed at which characters are dispatched becomes a rhythm that draws the reader in, carries you through the plot twists, and dumps you out at the end of the book, determined never to join a military style workout group, ever. A great, quick read, especially if you are a fan of grindhouse movies.
If you have been looking for a free book with some decent reviews, may I suggest Vapor Trail (here). And may I also suggest you let me know what you think? I promise to return the favor.
Tuesday, August 2, 2016
The first line isn't too bad considering some of the others (see here):
Winded and coughing, I lay on one elbow and spat out a mouthful of grass and mud. The horse I’d been riding raised its weight off my ankle, scrambled untidily to its feet and departed at an unfeeling gallop. I waited for things to settle: chest heaving, bones still rattling from the bang, sense of balance recovering from a thirty-mile-an-hour somersault and a few tumbling rolls. No harm done. Nothing broken. Just another fall.
Francis, Dick - Reflex
One of the few good things about going back and re-reading novels is that I like to remember where I was when I read them, and think about who I used for the character models and what places I used for the setting. When I was younger and had a very small history of English country houses to pull from, I always used my parent's friends, the Turner's house as the setting for so many of Dick Francis' novels. It's a tudor style home and was the closest I could get to envisioning British homes.
I also like to remember who it was I envisioned in different roles. Whenever I read a Stephanie Plum mystery (see evidence of that guilty pleasure here) I have a very clear image of the real person in my life who I use in that role. She's perfect for it even though she looks nothing like the way Stephanie Plum is described. Same goes for Jack Ryan. Got me a person for that role too. I like to read these old novels and remember who I used. Usually I remember then think to myself, "What were you thinking!"
Monday, August 1, 2016
Love Actually is one of my little brother's favorite movies. I don't blame him. Lots of British accents in that sucker. If it wasn't for the fact that Keira Knightley looks so much like a fish when she talks, it might be my favorite movie too. The scene I love most is when Hugh Grant is talking to his aide about a secretary and the aide calls the secretary "The Chubby One." Grant says "Hmmmmm, would we call her chubby?"
Thursday, July 14, 2016
I have just started Fault Line by Barry Eisler (here). I read and loved the John Rain series of books. I thought they were fun to read, extremely well written and innovative for thrillers (see more here). The other books I've read by Eisler are not quite as good as those, but as a winner of a Barry Award for Best Thriller and a Gumshoe Award for Best Thriller you have to give him some credit. So far, Fault Line is as good if not better than "Gods Eye View" (see here) but still far from as good as any of the John Rain series.
As for first lines (see all here), Fault Line doesn't disappoint:
The last thing Richard Hilzoy thought before the bullet entered his brain was, Things are really looking up.
Eisler, Barry - Fault Line
Wednesday, July 13, 2016
I'm currently reading a book about how to write mysteries, a book on the craft of writing. A few years ago I had a pledge to read one book on the writing craft for every two fiction books (see here). I'm re-starting that project under slightly different terms. This latest book began with a chapter on setting. One of the elements of mysteries that this author of the first piece focused on was setting. He stated that a mystery writer must choose either LA or New York for the setting. (I'm not too sure how seriously I should take this book). Having been to New York last year and having read so many Lawrence Sanders novels that took place in New York, I can understand using that city as a setting. LA? I don't see the appeal.
I understand the noir aspect of LA but I think that time has come and gone. I can also understand the glitz and glamour of the city, but for the most part LA is just dirty, busy, and self involved.
I'm sure that there are places here that I've yet to suss out, and I'm also sure that many people will say, "You live in Houston! Houston is just a dirtier, hotter, more humid LA that is on a disgusting Gulf rather than on the Pacific." They'd be right. But I don't have my settings in Houston. It's boring as a setting.
Long and short, I don't understand the LA fascination. New York, sure. LA, still not buying it.
Wednesday, July 6, 2016
This line occurs after the main character is trying again (don't want to give too much away) and is with the new girl. Having worked through problems like the main character has, I agree with the thought and the sentiment in the last line.
“It’s all so pretty,” she says. “But it’s kind of scary, too.”
And she’s right. It’s absolutely terrifying.
Norman, Matthew - We're All Damaged
We're All Damaged is alot like About a Boy. Loved reading About a Boy. It was lively, engaging, a bit surreal, funny and best of all the somewhat boring ending that occurred in the book was souped up a bit for the movie. I can see the same thing happening with We're All Damaged. The climactic scene for the action in this novel, that involves a booted motorcycle, a dented pickup, boxer shorts and NWA rap, could use a bit of fine tuning. Other than that, the book was a wonderful sojourn for the lonely, love forlorn and those going through difficult relationships.
The only thing . . . it may only speak to guys, so be careful ladies. My review may not transfer across gender lines.
So why the odd title to this post? Well, I read Matthew Fitzimmon's first book, The Short Drop (see here) and I loved it. I even said I couldn't wait for his next book. The same hold true for Matthew Norman.
Tuesday, July 5, 2016
Nevertheless, I was in one of those moments when I was chewing on my plot when this better idea about a murder came up. I think though the decision is a pretty easy one. This new one is more complex, more deliciously nuanced and it wouldn't do to try and blend them. I'll save the short story sniper plot for next time.
Thursday, June 30, 2016
There is also Kindle Audio. This is the audio version of all the books that I get. It's basically Audible.com linked up with Kindle. I use Audible some. Not as much as I would like, but some.
There's the definitions too. If I have a question about a word, all I need to do is highlight it and BOOM, there's the definition. Or if I'd like to see what other people are highlighting or noting all I have to do is turn that option on.
There a lot of great things about Kindle, there's also a whole lot they've left on the table, and not just for the reader, there's a lot missing for the author too.
When I first got my Kindle I was not as impressed as I hoped. I blogged about it (here) and brought up many things that I thought could be done better. Why isn't there "Kindle Soundtrack" that plays music while you read? Why isn't there "Kindle Interactive" that allows you to quickly see maps and photos of the things the reader is reading about? I remember when I was reading Shogun I really wanted to see a map of Japan. Nope. I had to go find the map that was in the book and that wasn't an easy navigation.
What about Kindle Auto Edition. What would that be? Well, I know that there are parts of my newest novel that could have used a bit more of an edit. How do I know that? Well a couple of my favorite readers let me know about them. One of my newest readers actually compiled a list of all the edits she felt should have been made before the release and sent them to me (she got a huge Starbucks gift card and free copies of all my other books for her efforts).
My problem? Why can't I upload my changes and have those changes automatically be pushed out to all the editions of my novel that have been bought? It would act as an update. By the time I push them out it might be too late, but better late than never right?
So, hurry up Amazon and get that Kindle Auto Edition going. Those of us out here who don't edit well the first time could really use it.
Tuesday, June 28, 2016
Monday, June 27, 2016
These books are fun and simple, I've said that before. So I wasn't too surprised that I was able to solve the mystery just before the dupes in the book. I like Reacher books because they're alot like the television show House. A pompous, kind of jerk guy who takes a lot of guesses and uses his brain to solve mysteries. What I didn't like was that at several times Lee Child actually added material to deliberately throw the reader off.
I don't mind a bit of subterfuge on the part of the author but showing things from the supposed killer's perspective, having the supposed killer have items that only the killer would have then later just dropping that in liue of a different killer, just isn't fair. It's false and wrong. I don't do it in my world building and don't care for authors that do. I expect more from Child even if I don't expect all that much to begin with.
Still, fun to read.
Those that read this blog know that I love compiling lists of first lines (here) and lines about the morning (here). I also like last lines (here).
They left their empty glasses on the window ledge and threaded their way through the knots of people. Everybody watched them to the door, and then turned back to their quiet speculations.
Child, Lee - Running Blind
Friday, June 24, 2016
Several years ago I went into my buddies office to talk about the layoffs that were going on. "Man," I said, "I'm glad we survived."
Two days later he was gone. Just Boom! Gone.
Then a year or so later I saw a guy on the elevator leaving early on a Friday. I said, "Leaving early? Hoping to get out of here before they decide to fire you?" It was a horrible joke, made more horrible because he'd just been let go.
It happened again a few months later. This time it was a young lady from work. I'm notoriously bad about talking to the ladies at work. So I was just trying to make a light-hearted joke about the box of things in her hands and cleaning out ones desk. I should have paid more attention to the context clues and less attention to my jokes to cute girls. She was in the process of cleaning out her desk.
Then just Monday, my buddy Christian, he was gone from his office. I thought he had been fired. I found him a few offices down and told him how happy I was that he hadn't been fired. He was fired the next morning.
It's becoming an issue. No one wants to talk to me at work anymore. They're afraid for their jobs I guess.
I wrote a short story similar to this. It comes from my brother's crazy mind. My brother has helped come up with several great story ideas (a sample here). The idea was actually a mixture of two different ideas . . . a short story cocktail if you will.
Bill wanted me to write a story about a man who sees his ex-wife outside an office building one day and in the spur of the moment decision kills her and gets away with it (as an aside, his wife was not happy to hear that this was his story idea). My brother wanted a Twilight Zone-y story about a man who once he has committed a murder begins to realize that he must keep murdering people or huge catastrophic events occur.
I started writing it and had the main character kill the ex-wife. He goes out, tries to forget what he's done, get's incredibly drunk, passes out, he wakes up the next day, lives out his day, no murder this time and the following day there's a school bus of children who have all died in a horrible explosion. He thinks nothing of it that, but the next day someone who witnessed him kill his wife comes to blackmail the main character. He kills the blackmailer, another night, this time its a restless one, and then it's back to normal. The following day a plane falls out of the sky and everyone dies. The plan was that he continue to live this life where he is forced to continue to commit murder to keep horrible things from occurring and the reader is left to wonder if it's really happening or if it's all in his mind, produced by the guilt of that first murder of his wife.
It's not finished. Work in progress. I hit pause after the murder of the witness. The main character still hasn't figured out the pattern. I didn't think there was anywhere to go with it. I also thought that the deaths needed to be more personally affecting to the main character. Maybe it's his parents that die, or it's his sister or brother.
Still, I think this Angle of Death at Work as legs if I just mull it over a bit. I'm thinking of bringing it up to Bill and my brother to see if another cocktail emerges.
Wednesday, June 22, 2016
Actually, there was a reason. Someone friended me on Goodreads. I don't "get" Goodreads. Maybe I'm too much of a loner reader. Maybe I need to make more friends, but I don't get the idea or the communications stream of Goodreads. That being said, I use it to promote my books, and that's where this blog comes in.
I logged in today because someone wanted to be my friend . . . you can never have too many and they can always surprise you (see here) . . . and what did I find? I glowing review of Vapor Trail.
When I looked for reviews I went through a review company. The reader who left this review found my book through that company. It's a pretty good review (see here).
This engrossing read is Dick Hannah's third novel about Jeremy Stubbins, a former military special operator and now a security contractor of a company. The story opens innocuously---Jeremy has agreed to meeting up with a military comrade from the past, and then immediately, his life begins to spiral out of control. When Jeremy meets Wick, he regrettably brings his brother-in-law, an action he sorely regrets, and which starts all the suspenseful action. The atmosphere becomes charged with dynamic forces, and Stubbins is forced to deal with all: the dubious suicide of his boss and friend Andrea, the tragic and suspicious traffic death of his war comrade Wick, the descent of Jensen into near madness by creating a conspiracy blog attracting not only attention but perilously putting his family in harm's way. Jeremy feels responsible to solve Andrea's death, protect his sister and nephew, stop Jensen's insanity and guard a secret from his past. Mr. Hannah is skilled in creating characterizations and detailing plot and setting so they become essential elements in this thriller. Thunbs UP!
Well I say thanks very much Skye, I'm so glad you enjoyed it. And to those who have yet to read it, take Skye's advice and go pick one up and let every know what you think.
Tuesday, June 21, 2016
There are some books that I read where I sit back and kind of give up on writing. Alot of Lawrence Sanders books are like that. I think to myself, "There's no way I can write that well." Same with James Dickey or Pat Conroy. They are so poetic in their writing I feel that I could never get to that level so I just stop writing for a while.
Then there are those books that I read and I think to myself, "I can do that! Heck I can write better than that."
That's what I think when I read a Lee Child novel. Like I said yesterday (here) his books are a bit formulaic and easy to read. The thing that is impressive is that he's built a brand and he continues that brand with verve.
I'm only on my fourth novel, and barely started on it. He's written twenty-one. Now he has twenty years on me, but I better hit high gear real soon if I hope to catch up.
I haven't been sitting around. I have a collection of short stories I'm sitting on, a thriller novel rough draft I'm happy with and a couple of romance cum literary fiction novels that are in various states of completion. But still there is number four sitting her staring me in the face each day.
Lee Child doesn't just give me that feeling that I can do that, he also inspires me to get up and write everyday, to just plug away a little bit at a time and eventually I'll get there. Perhaps I need to embrace the formula and the pedantic. It seems like that's what gets the novels produced.
Monday, June 20, 2016
Another Jack Reacher Novel, by Lee Child. This time it's Running Blind (here). It's not that bad, I suppose. It's not smut . . .is it? Sure it's formulaic. And yes they remind me of westerns (see here), and they're simple and sometimes plodding and just plain silly, but they're fun to read, particularly after that summer reading list I provided up in the first paragraph.
One thing I find interesting is that since talking to my buddy at work a few months back, I've changed who I imagine as the main character. It should come as no surprise to readers of this blog (that means you, Mom) . . . I suppose I should say "reader of this blog" rather than "readers" . . . that I substitute people I know into the place of characters when I read books. Reading a series makes this particularly fun. I have a very clear idea in my mind who Stephanie Plum and Lula are (here). I have a terrific person who represents Archy McNally. I had a good one for Reacher, then the movie came along and ruined it all.
Reacher is described as huge, extremely tall, even though the characteristics and dimensions that Lee Child uses hardly makes him seem that way. I think he wrote once that Reacher was six-three, two fifty. Coming from a guy who is six-two, two forty, I hardly think of myself in the same way that Reacher thinks of himself, and I'm just an inch and ten pounds short. For a long while I thought of Liam Neeson. Have you seen Taken? He would be a great Reacher. Then the movie people cast Tom Cruise as Reacher and everyone who ever read a Reacher novel thought it was horrid casting.
One of my work friends said to me in passing one day, "They should have cast the Rock" and Boom! It was an epiphany. The Rock would have been perfect. So now I've gone through an evolution in my reading of Reacher novels. From Liam to Dwayne.
Sunday, June 19, 2016
I am in the midst of writing my fourth novel. No name yet, but I have several themes that I'm exploring. I think what I liked most about my third novel, Vapor Trail (see here) was that I had far more and more complex themes than I did in my first and second novels. Among the themes I wrote about in Vapor Trail was the idea of the ends justifying the means. That's an obvious one. Another was the nature of conspiracies to overwhelm a person's life for the negative. There was a return to civilian life theme as well as a nine circles of Hell. Lots more depth than either Toe the Line (here) or On the Edge (here).
Some of the themes I hope to write about in this fourth book include writing about Anthony (see here) and writing about a guy at the end of his life who realizes he's not leaving much behind. There will be more, but that leaving something behind will probably be a major theme.
At poker last night one of the guys wished me a happy father's day. Keep in mind these are guys I see maybe once every three months. They play at least once a month, I just don't get there as much as I'd like. So, although I know them well by now, we aren't "friends" in the classic sense of the word. Secondly, even tough I like to think I break even, I probably lose more than most of the core group of players, so I suspect they only invite me cause I'm an easy mark. Still, the point is I know them, but only in a poker sense.
What stunned me was that this "poker friend" stopped himself when he said he hoped I had a nice Father's Day and said, "Oh, sorry man. Forgot about your Dad."
You see he remembered that I had to miss a poker night because of my father's funeral this past year (here). This is a guy who I had thought was just a passing acquaintance, in the life then out again, someone who might be tone deaf about that aspect of my life, and instead he was more in tune than most others in my life. I look forward to using this as a theme in my next novel. Perhaps the main character will be surprised by the end of the book that he has more friends than he previously realized.
When my father passed away I wrote a little blog post and in it I talked about this same surprisingly aspect of friendship and how friends will pop up in places that you didn't expect. I planned on making it a theme back then as well. I suppose I should be happy that I'm thematically consistent.
Friday, June 17, 2016
This is one of those many hundreds of Agatha Christie novels that she produced that I would bet most people have never heard. Good thing too. It's a throw away novel in that you read it, in some way you must force yourself to plow on, and afterward there may be some memory of the fact that you read it, but it's vague and you wish you could forget it. It just wasn't very good.
Since I love cataloging first lines, and have a whole section of this blog devoted to it (here), I'll leave the sample from Hickory Dickory Dock below:
Hercule Poirot frowned.
“Miss Lemon,” he said.
“Yes, M. Poirot?”
“There are three mistakes in this letter.”
His voice held incredulity. For Miss Lemon, that hideous and efficient woman, never made mistakes. She was never ill, never tired, never upset, never inaccurate. For all practical purposes, that is to say, she was not a woman at all. She was a machine— the perfect secretary. She knew everything, she coped with everything. She ran Hercule Poirot’s life for him, so that it, too, functioned like a machine. Order and method had been Hercule Poirot’s watchwords from many years ago. With George, his perfect manservant, and Miss Lemon, his perfect secretary, order and method ruled supreme in his life. Now that crumpets were baked square as well as round, he had nothing about which to complain.
Christie, Agatha - Hickory Dickory Dock: A Hercule Poirot Mystery
Wednesday, June 15, 2016
Once I hit my teens I think I fell in love with Dick Francis (here). Had never been to a horse race, but reading about his adventures around the horse racing world was spectacular to me. Also, I loved the way the story didn't necessarily have to do with racing, racing was sometimes tangential.
Then, later, as an adult, I ran across Archy McNally. What a fun character. But I ran out of them quickly and for more than a decade I was Lawrence Sanders-less.
It wasn't until just a few years ago that I did a bit of research and found out that Lawrence Sanders (here) wrote some much more gritty and more interesting detective stories with New York City as the backdrop. I fell immediately in love with them.
Sadly, I think I've read my last of these.
I just finished The Third Deadly Sin (here) and although it wasn't the best, I sure do love the way Sanders writes. I'll miss being able to read things like:
SOME DAYS LASTED FOREVER; some were never born. She awoke in a fury of expectation, gone as soon as felt; the world closed about. Once again life became a succession of swan pecks.
Zoe Kohler, blinking, woke holding a saggy breast, soft as a broken bird. The other wrist was clamped between her thighs. She was conscious of the phlegmy light of late winter, leaking through drawn blinds.
Outside, she knew, would be a metal day, no sun, and a sky that pressed. The air would smell of sulfur. She heard traffic drone and, within the apartment house, the dull thumps of morning doors. In the corner of her bedroom a radiator hissed derisively.
Sanders, Lawrence - The Third Deadly Sin
So, now that I've read my last, I'll be sad for a bit. But, it was serendipity that lead me to the Edward X Delaney series in the first place, perhaps a bit of serendipity will come again and I'll find some more.
Tuesday, April 26, 2016
My latest commitment was The Haj by Leon Uris. It wasn't bad, but boy it was nowhere near as good as Armageddon (see here). Uris has a wandering, tangential style, but in the case of The Haj, I just never got around to identifying with the main characters. I hated them all the entire way through the book. That's no way to read a book.
I knew going in that it was going to be a slog, but boy I had no idea just how hard it was going to be. I have to admit, I skimmed the last 20 pages just to be done with it.
Now . . .on to TRASH!
Sunday, March 20, 2016
I remember well how much I enjoyed that opening sequence in The Lion's Game (here) about the airliner filled with dead folks landing in New York and how the antagonist, The Lion, escapes despite all of the police presence. It's a great opening. I was rapt with attention.
Sadly I also remember how poorly that book ended. Beginning, great. Middle, meh. End, horrid.
I read the review for Wildfire before buying it I saw that one reviewer had written something about how it seemed like Nelson DeMille had given up by the end of the book and just wrapped up the damn thing to be done with it. It all came to and end too abruptly and too succinctly. I wrote about this as a good thing a couple of posts ago (here) saying that if a reader thinks it ends too soon, it could be that they just want the book and the story to continue. Still true. Sadly, it could also mean that the story just stinks. I think that Wildfire falls into this second category.
It's one thing if the author starts the novel with a spectacular opening sequence as The Lion's Game did. It's another if the opening sequence is boring, plodding and silly with the villain explaining his plan to take over the world while sitting around a dinner table as he did in Wild Fire.
Lastly, it was way too James Bond movie silly, with secret, underground, hidden layers, a ruthless villain and his silent body guard, an army of mercenaries and a plan to nuke the entire world. It left me dumbfounded that the person who wrote it could still be taken seriously by anyone after they had read it.
I liked The Lion's Game, enjoyed Nightfall, but so found everything about Wild Fire so reppellant as a reader and author that I doubt I'll try another DeMille book.
Tuesday, March 8, 2016
I’m John Corey, former NYPD homicide detective, wounded in the line of duty, retired on three-quarter disability (which is just a number for pay purposes; about 98 percent of me still functions), and now working as a special contract agent for the Federal Anti-Terrorist Task Force.
The guy in the cubicle facing me, Harry Muller, asked, “You ever hear of the Custer Hill Club?”
“That’s where I’m going this weekend.”
“Have a good time,” I said.
“They’re a bunch of rich, right-wing loonies who have this hunting lodge upstate.”
“Don’t bring me any venison, Harry. No dead birds, either.”
DeMille, Nelson - Wild Fire
It's not just a lame opening, it's also a tad of a "Dan Browner" (see here). What's a Dan Browner? Go look at the link. It means he opens like having a guy look in a mirror and describe himself for the reader. "I'm John Corey, former NYPD homicide detective . . . ." That's a Dan Browner.
Fifty pages in and it hasn't gotten much better. Come on DeMille, pull it out of this nose dive soon!
Friday, March 4, 2016
I agree with the 76% who say not to edit as you go. NaNo works best as a "brain dump." I just write as much and as fast as I can. Sure the final product is completely different, but the final product is also twice as long, so it's naturally never going to look like the first draft.
I was surprised to find that 67% of the surveyed folks found that the time of day they wrote was crucial. For me, whenever I could find time to write was a blessing. Maybe that will change as my kiddos age.
Who the hell are these 12% who wrote on the toilet, or 9% who wrote in the car? I hope they weren't driving.
The God's Eye View (here) is a pretty fun book. The cast of characters are all quite diverse and fun to know more about. One of the main characters, Marvin Manus, is like John Rain in that he is a unique assassin, in this case he's deaf. The main female character too is an interesting character. I think he spends a bit too much time going into the back ground and depth of character of the villain who I found to be the least engaging of the bunch, but still, it was all worthwhile.
What I didn't find? Those poetic lines that I like so much. In Hard Rain (here) Eisler wrote:
I moved deeper into the comforting gloom, along a stone walkway covered in cherry blossoms that lay like tenebrous snow in the glow of lamplights to either side. Just days earlier, these same blossoms had been celebrated by living Tokyoites, who came here in their drunken thousands to see reflected in the blossom's brief and vital beauty the inherent pathos of their own lives. But now the blossoms were fallen, the revelers departed, even the garbage disgorged by their parties efficiently removed and discarded, and the area was once again given over only to the dead.
The prose in The God's Eye View as a tad more pedantic and less flowery. I've come to expect a bit more from Eisler. In the past he has reminded me of James Dickey (Deliverance) and Pat Conroy (The Lords of Discipline) who I felt also have more poetic quality to their writing. The God's Eye View offered none of that.
All in all, it was a good thriller. Fun to read and worth the short time it takes to consume. Still, I'm looking forward to getting back to the John Rain series.
Thursday, March 3, 2016
General Theodore Anders was dreaming of marlin fishing when the secure phone rang on the bed stand next to him. He sat up immediately, concerned but not unduly so. He’d been awakened plenty of times over the course of his career, and by much worse than a telephone.
He blinked and reflexively scanned the room by the dim light of the bedside digital alarm clock. His wife, Debbie, continued snoring softly beside him. She’d learned to tune out NSA’s intrusions almost immediately after he’d been appointed director. If it were an internal problem, he wouldn’t be able to tell her. If the problem were external, she’d see it on the news soon enough. Either way, she didn’t want to know, or at least not before she had to. She was a good woman.
He cleared his throat and picked up the handset before the unit could ring a second time. In the army, he’d learned to impress his superiors with an image of constant readiness. The habit had stayed with him long since his superiors had become his subordinates.
Eisler, Barry - The God's Eye View
Don't be fooled though or put off. Well worth the time to read the rest of the lines, even if the first aint that great.
Tuesday, March 1, 2016
Sadly, as all this was swirling around in my head I read this:
Once, during a mystery conference panel, “I got up there and said, ‘Cats that speak, they’re an abomination.’ ” Then she turned tail and wrote a book about a talking ghost cat.
After reading that, I'm beginning to think these folks are just a bunch of wackos.
I went to a writing class/editing class for one of my first novels. Surreal doesn't begin to describe the experience. It was in an old dilapidated home in the middle of nowhere. When I went in I met the editor. He was a huge, seventy year old man, obese really, and he waddled around his home, barefoot, in a pair of ratty old boxer shorts and a grey wife beater t-shirt throughout the entire time I was there. I was immediately mad at myself for buying five sessions up front.
I would have thought this was some sort of strange "come on" except there were three of us there and the other two writers found nothing strange about this attire from their mentor. We all sat down, and were offered "Lean Cuisines" by the editor (I have no idea why) and started reviewing our writing. One writer there, who was quite proud of his work and went first, was writing about a mystery/thriller about a missing girl from the point of view of the blood hound who was tracking her.
I have read Watership Down and many other books of fantasy and sci-fi were there is something other than a human providing the context and being the main character. I have to tell you, it takes a lot more talent than I thought to pull it off and be taken seriously. Sadly, my writing partner did not have that talent. Secondly, the boxer shorted editor did not have the talent to help him either.
Meeting this editor, sitting around that kitchen table with the flap of his boxers falling open at inopportune times, the dusky, dirty bare feet and the Lean Cuisines, and the book about the kidnapping being told from the POV of Hank the Bloodhound, I'm surprised I stayed with this witting thing.
Still there is obviously a market out there for this kind of thing, so who knows. I plan on looking to see if there is a free one on the Kindle just so I can get some idea of what a cat might say.
Tuesday, February 23, 2016
Friday, February 5, 2016
Today's first line comes from a novel called The Short Drop by Matthew FitzSimmons (see here).
Gibson Vaughn sat alone at the bustling counter of the Nighthawk Diner. The breakfast rush was in full swing as customers milled about, waiting for a seat. Gibson barely registered the crescendo of knives and forks on plates or the waitress who set his food down. His eyes were fixed on the television mounted behind the counter. The news was playing the video again. It was ubiquitous, part of the American zeitgeist— dissected and analyzed over the years, referenced in film, television shows, and songs. Like most Americans, Gibson had seen it countless times, and like most Americans he couldn’t look away no matter how often it aired. How could he? It was all he had left of Suzanne.
The beginning of the video was grainy and washed out. The picture stuttered and frames dropped; distorted lines rolled up the screen like waves pounding an undiscovered shore. By-products of the store manager having recorded over the same videotape again and again and again.
Shot down at an angle from behind the cash register, the footage showed the interior of the infamous service station in Breezewood, Pennsylvania. The power of the video was that it could have been anywhere. Your hometown. Your daughter. Viewed in its entirety, the silent security camera footage was a melancholic homage to America’s most prominent missing girl— Suzanne Lombard. The time stamp read 10: 47 p.m.
FitzSimmons, Matthew - The Short Drop
Not the best first lines, but not bad either. The story actually becomes quite compelling quite quickly.
Tuesday, February 2, 2016
I actually contacted Danny Rubin several years ago to see if I could read his original script. I failed. He was very nice about it all, and it might have been my first contact with a true, professional writer. I think it had to do with the story regarding how long Bill Murray's character was stuck in that one day in the movie (see here). Then I read a great article by Jonah Goldberg in National Review about the script (see here . . . well worth the moment it takes to read it). That lead me to go try and find the original script. No joy.
I do like Rubin's article on writing. He offers some great thoughts including this one under the heading "Writers write. And rewrite."
"...most ideas tend to look fully formed and perfect until you actually try to write them down."
Each of my novels started in my head fully fleshed out. Then, as I began to write them, I realized there wasn't much meat on the bone. It took over a year of writing (and worse, rewriting) to get them even to the state they're in now. Funny how the brain can decieve a fellow in to believing its all done but the writing.
"You don’t have to put a gun to person’s head in order to make the stakes life and death. It can be a spiritual death."
Rubin writes this when talking about Raising the Stakes. This is a common piece of advice. No one cares if the main character fails and he doesn't get the cheese that he wanted on his cheeseburger. But, if the world is about to explode, if the Pope is about to be assassinated, if an election is about to be stolen or a young girl is about to be murdered, well then all of a sudden the reader gives a damn.
This is actually something I struggle with and have been told as much by my beta readers. I need to stop some time during my writing and think to myself, "how can I make this all a bigger deal."
"When encountering a story issue that is keeping you from moving forward, the tendency is to look to plot for your solutions. How can he have a crowbar with him when he gets to the warehouse? How could she know about the baby at this point in the story? How did the car get from the impound lot to the airport? This kind of logistical thinking can drive you crazy and will often lead to some very convoluted plotting in order to get the result you want."
"Or you could tinker with your character. What skills do they have? What happened in their background that might make them prepared for the challenge you’ve given them? What are they willing to do?"
This one I really struggle with. Allowing the character to drive the action is super tough. I have a plot and several sub-plots and I force the characters through that plot as if they were cars on a roller coaster track. I don't let the characters determine their own fate and what will happen. Not sure how to go about doing it, but having seen Groundhog Day I can certainly see what Rubin means.
It's great advice, and I love his work. Sure wish I had gotten a chance to see that original screen play. Maybe one day.