Wednesday, August 29, 2012
Monday, August 27, 2012
So, I want to see, in comments, fifty people tell me what they are currently doing to their current Work-in-Progress (WIP) and when we can expect to see it. Telling us, will help motivate you.
P.S. Y'all get to high ground down there where H. Isaac is coming.
P.P.S. I still need more guest bloggers for when I'm on vacation. Email me.
Wednesday, August 22, 2012
Monday, August 20, 2012
|Please, sir. can I have more?|
Wednesday, August 15, 2012
|Link To Amazon|
This book is breezy, sometimes funny, lacking depth, and thankfully short. Dead Men Are Easy To Love is a somewhat Sex In The City wannabe, borrowing the tone, journaling technique, and bit-sized love tryst formula from that show. In what was a promising premise and good start, it failed to find its own voice. Ariel Roberts finds no joy in the men she dates and finds little joy with life. Quite frankly, I'd run screaming away from her and her negative energy in realty. She lives pretty high on the hog for a constantly broke freelance journalist in New York City when a gypsy gives her a crystal, allowing Ariel to inadvertently time-travel and date the dreamy dead men in their prime while she looks for love.
Hillary Kanter can write and probably had a good editor; however, the fact checking in this book is abysmal. Sadly, some readers won't care, reading it for the man-bashing (and some needed to be bashed) and mild, but fairly well-written love scenes. However, the historical inaccuracies are unforgivable. And what was worse, there didn't seem to be any compelling reason to avoid historical accuracy. Sorry, but we weren't at war when Ariel met Lindbergh in spring, 1939; Beethoven's 2nd premiered in 1803 not 1800; Hemingway was in Paris not Key West in May, 1926; Margaret Mitchell had been married for 14 years and not dumped by a boyfriend the night GWTW was premiered. The inaccuracies went on and on.
Sadly, many of her best lines are really from others in the form of clichés, quotes, and asides. There is a final surprise character late in the story, but again this is a rehashed technique and done better in the hands of more experienced writers. In all, this story has the feeling of being dashed off in a moment of inspiration without the soak time to make it a worthy buy. I should give this book a "2" for all the grief it gave this reader, but the story arc does provide a modicum of growth for Ariel and a message for her to hold on to in the end, though it is weak and somewhat mixed. This is a low-end "3".
Monday, August 13, 2012
|You only need motivation.|
Recently, someone asked me to explain my rating system for the books I review. On the surface, this seems like a straight-forward question. In reality, explaining any rating system these days from crotch-thumping balance beam performances in the Olympics to kids taking a geography test in school has potential issues--mostly pertaining to validity. I admit it upfront: I'm old school. I like grades: A, B, C, D, & F. Sometimes you fail and need to be told, "You failed." I like it when we keep score during games or timed in competition. I didn't want a mossy green ribbon for finishing 2nd to last in the 1/2 mile Presidential fitness race in 1966; I wanted the gold ribbon, but I wasn't worthy of it. A ribbon for finishing--yuck, phew! Mossy green sucks and so did coming in 2nd to last. Yeah, my ego hurt. It should have hurt. I was an out of shape porker and needed to know that when that bear comes and chases the other 158 kids in my grade, it was either me or Augie he was going to eat.
Any rating is partially subjective. Reading a good book on a day when your hemorrhoids are screaming bloody murder will affect your subjectivity. I try to be as fair as possible, and thank God, I don't have hemorrhoids. I don't feel the need to get fancy with the rating system and went without icons: stars, books, movie reels, thumbs up, thumbs down, etc. My scale is similar to Amazon, and in general goes like this.
1 = Yuck, don't bother. I've never given out a one rating. I know how hard it is to write a novel and publish it, even one that is not very good. I can see me giving a "1" rating, but it'd have to be a deceptively bad, stolen idea rehashed, or misleading book with no redeemable value. They are out there. I have just been lucky enough not to run into one...yet. I have critiqued a novel more than once that might get a "1", but not read a published book.
2 = Only if you have extra time, disposable cash, or are stuck in a Kazakhstan airport. I've redacted the only two "2" ratings I've given. Why? Upon reflection, they were honestly written books, and while they rattled my teeth with glaring mistakes, they completed their mission of telling me a story. I'll let the textual portion of the review give the reader plenty of heads-up before purchasing. Any book that I pick up for the purpose of reviewing and can't finish would probably get a "2" rating or lower.
3 = It's okay, despite flaws. This is an average read. It probably tells a good story, but the execution, writing, or key plot points need help. Still, lovers of the genre or author or subject-matter for a book with a "3" rating would probably forgive and read it anyway. The shame is, many books I rate as 3's appear to have been dashed off and published in haste. This is the curse of too many self-published books. Frustrated and ready to move on (or buoyed by the back-slapping of well-meaning family members), many self-published authors don't refine their stories out of fatigue, delusion, or lack of money to pay for the outside help that would have strengthened their efforts.
4 = It's good and worth reading, especially if it's in a genre you like. When I give a "4" rating, it's obvious the author has tied up the loose ends, had someone competent edit or review the book, and taken care to structure the story for maximum impact. Will the book have flaws? Yes. But unless you get OCD about a particular type of flaw, you can read past it and have an enjoyable read.
5 = Most readers will find superior value in the book on probably many levels. A perfect book does not exist. To Kill A Mockingbird is in the top ten of every survey I've ever seen about all-time great books. It has over 2,000 ratings from 1 to 5 on Amazon. Don't be surprised if you disagree with me, subjectivity and genre preference does play a part in any review. But in my world, in my book rating system, some books speak with a louder voice because the author took time to pay attention to the finer points of the art of writing. Those books get a "5" rating. Books like Little Mountain by Bob Sanchez, Just Like That by Les Edgerton, Child of My Heart by Shelia Rudesill, Red, Green, or Murder by Steven F. Havill, and The Mighty T by Everett Powers. Perfect? No, but damn good. Gold ribbons all the way around.
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No penguins were harmed in the writing of this blog post.
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Beauregard Shamus is a figment of my imagination.
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Still looking for a few more guest bloggers before recess in September. Interested? email me.
Friday, August 10, 2012
*Mr. Shamus, give me a brief biographical background.*
I'm a bastard in the most correct sense. Mom burped me out June 28, 1914 in Sarajevo. My father, Gavrilo Princip, was busy that day. I never knew him, and he died in 1919 in prison. Such is the life of patriot, hero, and assassin. His life was the backdrop for my first novel, ARCHDUKE ALWAYS. It was published on October 24, 1929 in London, where mumsy and I moved shortly after my birth. I was only fifteen. Let me tell you, writers today are spoiled with their computers and software. Imagine writing a three-hundred page novel by hand, then having to type it without error. Sometimes, I think that's why the older novels are better--more attention to craft. The reviewers loved it; however, the public was preoccupied shortly after that with the depression.
Later, we moved to Wareham. I was working at Anglebury House, when Mr. Lawrence took a shine to me. He would talk about the desert and gave me motorcycle driving lessons. He had seven of them, you know. He inspired my second book.
*MOTORING INTO MADNESS, correct?*
Yes, again I was the victim of bad timing. Mr. Lawrence had a horrendous accident the day after the book came out and died six days later, May 19, 1935. Mr. Lawrence wrote a short forward, Critics loved the book, but the public began a dreadful campaign against motorbikes. Thank God, for the book advances.
*I understand that's when you met Missy.*
Ha. Missy Chesterfield hit me over the head with an anti-cycle sign at a rally. Being a minor teenage movie star and an American shooting a movie in England, she made nice. I leveraged my swarthy good looks and the reputation-damaging photograph of the incident for a date. We fell in love. She proposed to me one day while fishing on the wharf, but it meant emigrating to Hollywood. Mom was furious, but it was love and fate.
Acting parts were hard to come by for Missy. We had a one-bedroom, cold-water flat, but space for a small garden. People don't realize how much you can save if you eat what you grow. I did most of my writing in a coffee shop near the studios, waiting for Missy and trying to make contacts. My next book, DESERT WATCH, had a lot of Lawrence in it. It was a huge hit in the Middle East until King Abdulaziz discovered oil. He decided the book was too liberal for the regime. It's still banned.
*And that's when the Big Five befriended you.*
Yes, William Faulkner, Humphrey Bogart, and Howard Hawks took me under their wings along with the Hustons (John and Walter). God those guys could drink. They pushed my writing, but weren't very generous with sharing credit. I should have had partial credits for Jezebel, Juarez, and Angels with Dirty Faces. Bogie told me that I was too lyrical. "Fish or cut bait," he said to me. Missy wasn't getting any roles so we went to New York where she got steady work on the stage. But the Big Five experience generated two of my best books, THE CUCKOOS and IN THE BOTTLE. (He laughs heartily.)
*Is that when you met Albert Einstein?"
England...Europe was at war. I wanted to go back, but Missy got pregnant--not mine I found out forty years later. I couldn't leave her. Pressure was on for me to become a citizen. New York City seemed a likely war target should America be dragged into the war. We needed to get out. That's when I dashed off ENEMY ON THE DOCKS about espionage. It didn't sell much, but the movie rights were snatched up and butchered into several war time movies. With the movie rights money, we moved to Lawrenceville, New Jersey, near Princeton, and I taught English at a private school. During a Sunday outing, Einstein and I crashed bikes together at a blind corner. He was funny. "In all the dimensions in all the universes, you come smashing into mine." We had some drinks, and we ended up in the same class for citizenship, which we achieved on October 1, 1940. I talked to Michael Curtiz, another friend of the Big Five, about meeting Einstein. Watch CASABLANCA and see what he did to Einstein's line. He even got me a bit part, handing Captain Louis Renault, Claude Rains, a note. Claude was the nicest guy.
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His story goes on and on. He published twenty-five novels, knew seemingly everyone, and is working on his memoirs. His generosity with helping other screenplay writers, often without recompense, is supposedly legendary. And to his friends, enemies, and strangers alike, he will always be known as BS.
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Still looking for more guest bloggers. Email me.
Wednesday, August 8, 2012
Two heads can be better than one, especially when writing about a dystopic future that just might have some promise, that is, if the engaging cast of characters can reach their ultimate goal. The tag team of Parzefall and Stanley gives us a story, Wind Over Troubled Waters, framed by current events (global warming) and one possible future arising from the devastating flood it triggers. Mankind is back to the beginning...well...a medevial setting in the future, at least, where the remnants of mankind are but legends, curiosities, and a fair number of twisted sayings for the current players to use, abuse, and ponder. Cerridwen, a 17-year-old healer with special powers and wisdom beyond her age, makes a death bed promise to her mother and kicks off the first book in a promising series.
|280 Foot Sea-Level Rise|
The writing is strong and precise. I could quibble over some of the science, but it is a dystopian fantasy, science sometimes bleeds away to allow the human side of stories to take over. If you're a fantasy lover with a bent for speculative fiction tinged with a hint of romance to come, this is a book you should take on vacation with you to Cornworld or elsewhere. It earns a high 4 rating from me.
Monday, August 6, 2012
The smell of chocolate cookies baking is messing with my concentration on writing, editing, and critiquing. How can I be on a diet and she be baking the most chocolate-filled, chewy, yummy, and huge cookies. It's all about good and evil. The good of chocolate versus the evil of calories, but I digress.
Before. Yes, the sage advice about not writing about writing seems a bit silly to me because, I suspect that most of the people who come to my blog are there on Mondays to get inspired to write, on Wednesdays to find a book review about a book they might like to read, and on Fridays to see what other writers have to say -- whether they agree or disagree with other writers while secretly (or not) promote their books. They should always be promoting their books and let the readers decide whether to crown them with glory or drown them in gooey delight. Oh, damn the cookies.
I know you didn't come here for the cookies, but they're out of the oven now. They call louder than any werewolf howl (wouldn't you like a werewolf who howled like an opera singer?), louder than any Herculean siren, louder than the blast from the nuclear power plant when they're having a drill. But, you don't come here for the cooking, whether it be the chocolate chips or caramels or my veggie eggs or my turkey gravy that could make Chef Ramsey give up swearing. You come for writing advice.
|Still Outselling Me :-(|
And what are you doing right now?
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Yeah, still trying to fill up my calendar with guest bloggers. Email me.
Friday, August 3, 2012
|A Saint Comes Stumbling In|
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Wednesday, August 1, 2012
Strange in Skin is a well-written story, edited to keep out most grammatical and production hiccups, and should appeal to younger audiences, wanting to escape the day-to-day and fantasize about "first" or "true" love along with youthful rebellion. Though the heroine, Anna, acts more like a lovesick puppy of sixteen in the beginning than a dowdy 22-year-old ready to bloom, the author provides a story line that gives her the opportunity to grow. That's the strong upside.
I don't read or review fantasy often, but dipped my fingers into this book because of the mystery aspect. It's almost a shame the fantasy element is there at all. Fantasy really doesn't show up until 40% through the book, and isn't really that central to the overall themes of good over evil and love conquers all. This would have made a solid coming-of-age mystery without the fantasy. Plenty of human evil needs to be overcome (deceit, prejudice, controlling and bad people, etc.). The fantasy element is the stuff of love struck teenagers but has little bearing on solving anything in this story. The fantasy, in my opinion, just messes up the message with should do in reality of doing what's right or following your heart.
Maybe books two and three will be more revealing, but each book needs to stand on its own merit. And in this one, Anna does a lot of moaning, crying, wailing, kvetching, internalizing, and falling in love with some "blue eyes" as she grows. She never attempts to investigate Emry's crime to help him. And some of her other investigative adventures harkens back to Nancy Drew with hot flashes. Two plot holes stopped me cold; however, I read on. To me, this is a 3, average, and that's not bad. But I suspect for the target audience, it's probably a middle-grade 4.