Thursday, June 30, 2016

Kindle Editions

I subscribed to Kindle Unlimited so for a small sum every month I get free books, as many as I want, only ten at a time, and only from a certain selection. It's not that bad a gig for a guy who reads quite a bit. I betcha I've saved close to a hundred bucks thanks to Kindle Unlimited. All of my books are a part of Kindle Unlimited, so you Unlimited folks can go out there and get them for free (see here, here, and here).

There is also Kindle Audio. This is the audio version of all the books that I get. It's basically 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

Stumble Upon

When I was in San Diego last year we stumbled upon a truly incredible Italian restuarant. We weren't looking for an Italian restaurant, no one had recommended it, but when we sat down on their patio, and met our waiter we knew we were in for something incredible. The food was amazing, the service exemplary, the price was reasonable and the entire thing was the perfect experience. Pure serendipity. 

This is what has happened with We're All Damaged by Matthew Norman (here). I've only just started the book but already I can't stop reading it. It's fast paced, witty, light, and fun. It reminds me of a book I read many years ago which I also loved, Sellavision by Augusten Burroughs (here). 

What I love most about this novel so far is that there are times I'll be reading it and I will think, "wouldn't it be neat if he . . ." then the author does that very thing. Or worse I'll think, "Awe man! I should have thought of that and written that." Still, it's fun to read a book that speaks to you and that you just stumbled upon for no better reason than it happened to be free as a part of the Kindle Unlimited program. I don't read much comedy, I rarely find it that funny. Nice to see it done well here.

I love cataloging first lines as we all know, so it's nice to see Mr. Norman's offering. I've clipped almost the whole first page because I love the way it sets the scene.

It’s scary how many details I remember about the night Karen left. 

That’s the thing I hate most about my brain, the way it stores and catalogs things, all this dumb shit on a giant hard drive in my head, so I’m forced to obsess over it all like a crazy person. 

Here’s a perfect example. 

Our waiter had a button stuck to his apron that said “Ask Me about Bacon Time!” Why in the hell would I remember that? He had to have been wearing, like, thirty buttons— they always do— but that’s the one I remember. He brought us our food, I saw the button, and I wondered if he was ever tempted to wear it outside of work, like with jeans and a T-shirt, just hanging out with his friends. 

Hey, everybody— you guys— ask me about Bacon Time! 

There was an old couple at the table next to ours drinking these enormous novelty margaritas, like a pair of drunks on a cruise. The lady kept touching her husband’s hand across the table. It was nice. I remember thinking that. They wore matching Velcro sneakers. 

“Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go” by Wham! was playing. Blast from the past, I know, but talk about a jagged little piece of pop music irony. I suggest Googling it. It’s the single most upbeat fucking thing in the history of recorded music. In five thousand years, archaeologists will unearth it on someone’s long-lost computer. Jesus, were these primitive people really that happy? they’ll ask in their high-tech future language. 

Karen was wearing her green sweater, the one I got her for her birthday. She really loves green. Green throw pillows. Green socks. She painted an accent wall green in our dining room once when I was away. It was kind of weird— her green obsession— but I went with it, because she was my wife. I saw the sweater on one of those creepy headless mannequins at the Gap, and I knew she’d love it. 

Here’s the worst detail of all— worse than Wham! even, if you can believe it. It all happened at Applebee’s.

Norman, Matthew -We're All Damaged 

I like the way he's taken so many seemingly normal things in suburban life and arranged them into his breakup to be completely absurd and revealing at the same time. 

Monday, June 27, 2016

Running Blind Does Some Unfair Things

Although I liked the book for the same reason I liked the other Reacher books (see here) I've read, in Running Blind (here), Lee Child does pull some tricks that are unfair to the reader.

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

Angel of Death at Work

I think I am the "Angel of Death" of my workplace. That sounds like a bad thing, and to those that are fired, it probably is. Very much is. But it would be worse if it was intentional. Right now it's not intentional so I just look like a jamoke.

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

Always a Good Way to Start the Day

For no reason whatsoever I was tooling around on Goodreads (here).

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!

Skye Skye

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

Consistency and Prolificness

One thing I will say about Lee Child (here), the man writes alot. The other thing I will say about him is that I think I could write as well as or better than he does.

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

From Thick to Thin and from Liam to Dwayne

I've read a few really thick books lately. First there was Uris and The Haj (here). Then there was Lawrence Sanders' The Third Deadly Sin (here). Finally Hickory Dickory Doc (here). Please don't judge me too harshly when I reveal the depths to which I've fallen in my next selection.

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

Surprising Friends

Last night I had the opportunity for one of my irregular guy's night out poker nights. Last time I won almost five hundred dollars. This time I lost three hundred. Win some, lose some right? But I found something out that was surprising and my mind was worth the three hundred dollars I lost.

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

Summer Chills - Late Spring Dulls

For several years I've made a point to go to our local theater's "Summer Chills" series (see here) which always features an Agatha Christie play. I remember being, and still am, stunned by the fact that each year there was a new play and I had never heard of it. Many times it's not quite as good as I hope. Such is the way I feel about Hickory Dickory Dock (see here).

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

Completely Complete . . . Sigh

My favorite authors when I was younger were probably Stephen King (here) and Louis L'amour (here). Stephen King is good a long, interesting yarns. Louis has that black, white, no moral relativism, man against man and nature story.

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.