Saturday, October 5, 2013

Winterkill by C.J. Box

Today I finished reading Winterkill by C.J. Box.

I enjoy reading Box's novels and am gradually working my way through his Joe Pickett, game warden, series.  This book is the third in the series.

The setting for this book is the Wyoming Bitterroot mountains in the winter time.  The descriptions of snow and cold are so powerful I got cold sitting in my South Alabama chair reading it on an 85 degree day.

This is a good book.  Enjoy.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Vanish by Tess Gerritsen

Today I finished reading Vanish by Tess Gerritsen.

I read Vanish because it was a 2006 Edgar Award nominee.

I watch Rizolli & Isles every week.  Haven't missed an episode.  Absolutely love the TV program.

The book is a good fun read.

But, in this book Jane Rizolli is married to an FBI agent.  In the TV series she can't commit to a relationship with Casey, a soldier, because it will interfere with her job.  In the book she she not only committed she's having a baby.  I hate to admit it but this gave me a problem.  I spent a lot of time comparing the characters on the page with the ones on TV.

I wonder what it is like to create a character and then have a TV series kidnap your character and send them down a different path from the one you chose in your books.  I don't think I'd like it very much.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Miracle Cure by Harlan Coben

Today I finished reading Miracle Cure by Harlan Coben.

This book was published in 1991.  Twenty two years ago.  It is a good book.

I've read that it takes 10,000 hours to develop a skill to a superior level.  This book is a beautiful example.  If you compare a current Coben novel, this one fades in comparison.  It's good.  But, you can see where Coben spent his 10,000 hours.  Getting better.

This is encouraging to me.  I know I can't write as well as Coben today.  But maybe after 10,000 more hours I will be able to.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Enemy of Mine by Brad Taylor

Today I finished reading Enemy of Mine by Brad Taylor.

I don't read very many terrorist thrillers.  I'm stuck in the 60's enjoying MacLain, LeCarre, and Flemming.  Nazis and communists made really good bad guys.

It may be that those threats were/are farther from home and not so threatening as the real time, real life terrorism we live with today.

Taylor writes a good read.  It was very enjoyable.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Guide to Fiction Writing by Phyllis A. Whitney

Today I finished reading Guide to Fiction Writing by Phyllis A. Whitney.  It was recommended by

The book was originally published in 1982.  It was criticized by a few Goodreads reviewers as "dated".  I found it contained a lot of really good advice that was as currently relevant as books published this year.

Thirty-one years before Ms. Whitney wrote, "As a reviewer of children's books, I'd read the best of what was being published, and now I set out to discover what constituted a 'better book.'  I found out: It was nearly always a book that said something worth saying.  Said something.  That was what made certain books stand out over so many others!  Significance, meaning a message, not the obvious, not just the same cliches. . . 

If you don't have this emotional involvement, throw the subject away.  You can't fake conviction.  Whatever you want to say in your fiction must come out of what you believe and feel."

I give the book 4 stars.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Plot & Structure by James Scott Bell

Today I finished reading Plot & Structure: Techniques and exercises for crafting a plot that grips readers from start to finish by James Scott Bell.

I've resisted reading this how-to book for a long time.  That was a mistake.  I thought that I really understood 3 Act Structure so there was nothing I could gain from this book.

While I probably didn't learn anything new about 3 Act Structure, I didn't waste my time.  I learned many new things.

Back in February I sent my outline for my WIP to two editors for their review of my story.  I was after a development edit.  What I got back from both editors was that my story wasn't ready for prime time.  Editor number one was positive and encouraging while pointing out my weaknesses.  Editor number two was brutally frank.  She commented on only the first act. She said, after you've changed the outline to introduce the protagonist in scene 1 and changed this, and this, and this. (You get the idea.) Then send me your revised outline before we go any further.

I got hung up on her point that my protagonist must appear in the first scene.  I frankly didn't get it.  My big opening scene had my antagonist up to his dirty work.  I had only already revised the opening scene a bajillion times and I liked what I had.   I didn't revise the opening scene or make the other changes.  I was stuck.  I couldn't imagine how to do what she wanted.  The story just had to begin with the antagonist's dirty work.

Then I discovered Bridging Conflict in Plot & Structure.  The answer to my problem.

This book is so much more than just another book on structure.  It has some of the best how-to advice I've read.  Don't miss it.

I give the book 4 stars.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

The Affair by Lee Child

Today I finished reading The Affair by Lee Child.

This is the 16th Jack Reacher novel and certainly one of the best.

This is the first Reacher novel where Child describes the sexual moments in detail.  All of Reacher's previous encounters were basically of the an embrace, they walk to the bedroom, the door closes variety.

I like a mix of sex and violence.  Recently, my wife asked, "You read more dirty books than I do. What does it meant when . . . ?"  I'm not sure if the quantity is accurate but I do enjoy a 'dirty' book.  So, if I write what I like to read, my WIP will contain both.  However, I've noticed that most thrillers are not very explicit.  And that has cautioned me from being too explicit.

Dean Koontz when writing about how to write a best selling novel advised to include sex.  The question to include sex or not is still unanswered for me.

When considering the market for a thriller the question is will the addition of sex increase the pleasure of reading for more readers than the number of readers who will be turned off.

I may have thought I knew the answer several years ago but in light of  the 50 Shades of Grey phenomenon I know I don't know anymore.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Writing the Killer Thriller by Jodi Renner

Today I read Writing the Killer Thriller: An Editor's Guide to Writing Compelling Fiction by Jodi Renner.

When I started learning about how to write a novel, I began a notebook.  As I learned something new about writing a novel I would add it to the notebook and reference the note back to the source.  By the fifth book on how to write I gave up on my notebook.  I didn't like ditching the notebook idea but I found that process became confusing especially when the authors began disagreeing among themselves.

This book will be a good substitute for my notebook as I attempt to write my thriller.

Ms. Renner's book is a collection of quotes from the authors of how-to-write books paired with her own experience reading and editing best selling thrillers. Authors quoted include James N. Frey, James Scott Bell, Jessica Page Morrell, Hallie Ephron, and Jack M. Bickham.

It was helpful to see these ideas accumulated and referenced particularly toward writing a thriller.  I rate the book 4 stars.

Friday, August 2, 2013

American Sniper by Chris Kyle

Today I finished reading American Sniper by Chris Kyle.

I read it as background for  my work-in-progress.

Christopher Scott "Chris" Kyle (April 8, 1974 – February 2, 2013) was a United States Navy SEAL known as the most lethal sniper in American military history with 160 confirmed kills out of 255 claimed kills, although these statistics have not been released by the Pentagon.
Kyle served four tours in the second Iraqi conflict and was awarded the Bronze and Silver Star medals multiple times. Iraqi insurgents dubbed him the "Devil of Ramadi" and offered a bounty for his head. He was shot twice, and was involved in six IED attacks.
Kyle decided to spend time with his family and was honorably discharged from the US Navy in 2009. He remained in the spotlight after leaving the Navy and wrote a New York Times bestselling autobiography, American Sniper. Kyle was shot and killed at a shooting range by a fellow veteran on February 2, 2013, near Chalk Mountain, Texas. ~ Wkipedia

Monday, July 29, 2013

Blowback by Brad Thor

Today I finished reading Blowback by Brad Thor.

Blowback was rated #52 by National Public Radio listeners in its list of top 100 Killer Thrillers.

This was the second Brad Thor novel I've read.  One of the characteristics that I've noticed in his novels is his habit of naming obscure government agencies or military units and then referring to them by their initials.

When I finished The Athena Project I wondered, 'is he making this stuff up or is that the real name.'  I didn't like The Athena Project so I didn't give it much further thought.

I read Blowback because of the NPR list.  I was again struck by how much effort Thor goes into establishing all of these initialed agencies.  I remembered reading an offering of research advice by an aclaimed writer to make it up.  It's fiction.  Don't worry about getting it exactly right.

Thor is so precise.  Does he know all this stuff he packs into his novels or is he making it up?  So after I read Blowback, I cranked up Google and began searching.  Sure enough I found multiple obscure government agencies in Wikipedia.  Then I looked up the story of Otto Skorzeny which is highlighted prominently in the novel.  Yes, it was a real story.

Now I'm wondering how much more of the novel is based on fact and how much is fiction?  When I read my next Thor novel I'm going to read with a tablet to list things to look up when I finish reading it.

Blowback is a good read and apparently a lot of it is based on fact.  And because the subject of the novel is Islamic terrorism, it's kinda scary to think about the parts that might really be true.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

The Bourne Objective by Eric Van Lustbader

Today I finished reading The Bourne Objective by Eric Van Lustbader.

This was the eighth Bourne novel.  Three by Ludlum and five by Lustbader.  I've enjoyed them all.

I'm not sure if this one is the most violent or if I just woke up to how over the top the violence is in the Bourne novels.  This one is almost like an encyclopedia.  There may be a method of killing or incapacitation that isn't described but there can't be many.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Kindness Goes Unpunished by Craig Johnson

Today I finished reading Kindness Goes Unpunished by Craig Johnson.

This is book #3 in the Walt Longmire series.

One of the interesting things within this book is the additional backstory information that is dropped: he had played offensive guard for USC; he had been awarded bronze star, silver star and Navy cross while a Marine in Vietnam.  These were things I would have highlighted in book #1.

In my head Walt Longmire looks like the TV actor.  In the book he is a much bigger guy.  As they would have said on Laugh In - verrrrry interesting.

Monday, July 22, 2013

No Colder Place by S. J. Rozan

Today I finished reading No Colder Place by S. J. Rozan.

It won the Anthony Award and was a 1998 Shamus Award nominee.  Rozan made my reading list as the 2003 Edgar Award author of Winter and Night.

It is the fourth book in the series about PIs Lydia Chinn & Bill Smith.  It was a fun read.  

When I went to GoodReads to find out more about S. J. Rozan, I found out that the first three books of the series were free on Kindle for Prime customers.  It was almost enough to pry the $139 from my fingers to buy a new Kindle Paperwhite.  But, I'm addicted to the feel of paper.  What can i say?

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Laguna Heat by T. Jefferson Parker

Today I finished reading Laguna Heat by T. Jefferson Parker.

It was Parker's first novel.  I do not think it is as good as his more recent books.  Still it is a fun read.  And I can only wish that my first novel would be this good.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

War of the Rats by David L. Robbins

Today I finished reading War of the Rats by David L. Robbins.  It provided significant inspiration for the movie Enemy at the Gates.

The plot focuses on a 1942 battle between the Nazi Germans and the Soviets set in Stalingrad, Soviet Union. The battle is declared by Viktor Tabori to be "Rattenkrieg"; translated, War of the Rats.
The story focuses in on the lives of two expert snipers, a Russian and a German, each with the goal of killing the other. The two snipers, Army Chief Master Sergeant Vasily Zaytsev of the Red Army and SS Colonel Heinz Thorvald of the German army, are equally matched. However, the story is complicated when a woman sniper Tania Chernova becomes one of Vasily's most talented assistants, and Zaitzev's battlefield lover. ~ Wikipedia

I'm working on a list of books to read that is now up to 54 pages.  I'm not sure how a WWII novel got on my reading list.  Probably as I was watching the credits for Enemy at the Gates.  It was outside my normal choices of thrillers, suspense and mysteries.  I thoroughly enjoyed it.  The love scenes are written tastefully and masterfully.  You can almost taste the setting descriptions.  Robbins is a really good writer.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

A Place of Execution by Val McDermid

Today I finished reading A Place of Execution by Val McDermid.  This novel was the winner of the Anthony Award and was a 2001 Edgar Award nominee.

I had a hard time getting into this novel.  It received praise on its back cover from Robert Crais, Minette Walters, Michael Connelly and Ian Rankin so I kept on slogging until it grabbed me at about one-fourth.  The first quarter was very much a police procedural.  A good one, mind you.  But, the hook was weak and the pace was sloooow.  In the end, I persisted and found it enjoyable.

But then, it may all be my fault.  It hasn't done anything this week but rain.  Everyday, two to four inches.  One day we got six to eight and a bit down the road got an amazing twenty inches in the same twenty-four hour period.  A little rain is okay. But this week has been ridiculous.  It probably made me a grumpy reader. :(

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Open Pipes and a Smile

I had the best time today.  Cruisin' Gulf Shores in my '51 Chevy with the side pipes wide open.  It's fast and it's loud.  How can you not love it?

And the best part.  Six people stopped me to tell me how much they liked my car and the way it sounded in the hour I was out and about.  If I had driven all day. . . well, my heart couldn't have taken that much love.

Makes the small boy in me grin from ear to ear.

Friday, June 28, 2013

I'd Know You Anywhere by Laura Lippman

Today I finished reading I'd Know You Anywhere by Laura Lippman.  It was a 2011 nominee for the Edgar Award.

This novel is one of the best examples of how to control pacing and backstory revelation I've ever read.   I caught myself reading forward eagerly to find out what really happened in the past.  SUSPENSE in all capitals.  Laura Lippman can write it with the best.

I'm definitely reading more of her work.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

LaBrava by Elmore Leonard

Today I finished reading LaBrava by Elmore Leonard.  This novel was awarded the 1984 Edgar Award.

When I think of what other's have said about Elmore Leonard's writing, the first two things I recall are a master of dialogue and no adverbs.

I know he wrote a list of 10 rules for writing, but "no adverbs" is what stuck.  So I decided I would find where he used an adverb and cite it for you.  Got tired of looking eventually.

And as for dialogue.  Well it's good that he's good at it because LaBrava is at least 96% dialogue.  And I loved it.

I hadn't read any of Leonard's novels since my cowboy stories era many years ago.  He's good.  Really Good.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

The Ridge by Michael Koryta

Today I finished reading The Ridge by Michael Koryta.  It was nominated for the 2012 Thriller Award.

I almost didn't read it.  I'm a big 'fraidy cat.  I don't read scary stuff.  I don't watch scary movies.  Not since being scared slap to death by The Incredible Shrinking Man's fight with the spider.  I just don't go there.

The dust jacket proclaims, "Will make you shiver in the sun."

But I put my game face on and began to read.  It is a fascinating tale told by a master.  Michael Koryta is among the best there is.  Truly

Friday, June 7, 2013

Crossing the Line by Leonard Critcher

 Today I read Crossing the Line by Leonard Critcher.

I Thoroughly enjoyed Crossing the Line, the sequel to Drawing the Line. I began to cheer when the full cast of the love triangle were re-assembled. I really like these characters and their story. I'm looking forward to the next installment.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Intensity by Dean Koontz

6/6 Today I read Intensity by Dean Koontz.  This novel was #65 on the NPR listeners list of Top 100 Killer Thrillers.

It lives up to its title.  It is intense.  A good read.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Story Physics by Larry Brooks

Today I read Story Physics by Larry Brooks.

Inside "Story Physics," you'll learn how to: Understand and harness the six storytelling forces that are constantly at work in your fiction.Transform your story idea into a dramatically compelling concept.Optimize the choices you make in terms of character, conflict, subplot, subtext, and more to render the best possible outcome. These literary forces will elevate your story above the competition and help you avoid the rejection pile. With "Story Physics," you won't just give your story wings--you'll teach it how to fly. ~Goodreads

I've been a fan of Larry Brooks for a long time.  I've read all of his books.  I read his blog Storyfix.  I've paid him to review my work in progress.  But, I confess. I'm not sure I really understand what he's talking about throughout this book.  He's calling us to write the best we can.  Perhaps to not waste our time writing something that is doomed in the beginning at its very core.  I'd like to write the next To Kill a Mockingbird or The DaVinci Code.  Sure.  Who wouldn't.  But the chance of doing that is very unlikely.  My goals are much lower.

I'll keep re-reading the book.  I know the truth is there as Larry understands it.  It's just difficult for me to get my head around.

If I understood everything, I'd give the book 5 stars.  But I don't.  I'll give it 4 stars for what I do understand.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Death Without Company by Craig Johnson

Today I read Death Without Company by Craig Johnson.  The sophomore novel in the Walt Longmire mystery series.

It is a good read.  Most of what I know about the characters is at this point is from the TV show Longmire, I found exploring their backstories very interesting.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

The Queen of Patpong by Timothy Hallinan

Today I finished reading The Queen of Patpong by Timothy Hallinan.  This thriller was nominated for the 2011 Edgar Award.

The story is set in Bangkok, Thailand ca. 2010.  I was fortunate to have visited Thailand a few years ago.  I found the setting to be true to my memories except for Patpong.  I spent my time visiting temples, markets and an unending stream of jewelry shops with my wife.  I never made it to Patpong not even for a peek.

The Queen of Patpong is an interesting read.  A couple of the fight scenes are among the best I've ever read.  Hallinan can write violence in a way you feel every blow.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

The Devotion of Suspect X by Keigo Higashino

Today I finished reading The Devotion of Suspect X by Keigo Higashino.  This police procedural novel was nominated for the 2012 Edgar Award.

The book is a translation of a Japanese novel.  I graduated from high school at Misawa AFB, Amori, Japan.  This doesn't make me an expert on all things Japanese.  But I did enjoy the memories of life in Japan in the early 60's that the story elicited.

"Japanese crime writers excel at many things: one is slow tightening of the noose that's at the fast-pounding heart of the police procedural.  The Devotion of Suspect X is a teriffic book in that tradition, and it's about time American readers got a crack at it" - S. J. Rozan

Monday, May 20, 2013

Opinion Trifecta

Today he went to see his oncologist.

The CT Scan results were as good as could be expected.  Still 3 nodules and their size and shape had not changed.  Re-scan in November.

He talked to the oncologist about the six reasons he had been given for not having surgery.  The oncologist listened intently and agreed with each point.

When asked about joining a study to attack the NETs more agressively, the  oncologist replied, "Right now you feel pretty good.  I can guarantee you that if you join a study you won't be feeling good.  Let's just continue to watch them for now."

And there you have it.  Living with C.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Devil's Punchbowl by Greg Iles

Today I read Devil's Punchbowl by Greg Iles.

After appearing in two of Iles's most popular novels, Penn Cage makes his triumphant return as a brilliant, honorable, and courageous hero. Rich with Southern atmosphere and marked by one jaw-dropping plot turn after another, "The Devil's Punchbowl" confirms that Greg Iles is America's master of suspense. ~ Goodreads

This is a wonderful Southern novel.  I hope Iles decides to write a fourth book with Penn and Caitlin.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

A Second Opinion

Today he went to see the surgeon who had cared for him during his 2011 recovery.  He wanted to lay out what his daughter, the doctor, had told him about not having surgery and seek his opinion.  

The surgeon confirmed what she had told him about having surgery.  He did not disagree with any of her six reasons to not have future surgery.  

The surgeon suggested that he ask the oncologist if there were any new protocols at MD Anderson studying NETs and to get with them if he wanted to fight the NETs more aggressively.  

The surgeon thought there might be a chance to do an ablation from the back without perforating the bowel.  But, he did not disagree with ‘don’t perforate the bowel’.  

When he got back from the surgeon’s office he sat down and didn’t do anything the rest of the day.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Live With It

The decision to "live" with cancer sucked. 

There was a scene in The Vikings episode he watched today where a character did the "it's a good day to die" deal and then volunteered to be a human sacrifice. 

He struggled with how could possibly accept his fate cheerfully. He didn't know how only that he had to somehow.  Enoch and Elijah were the only two men who didn't die.  We all die.  The test is to die well.  He prayed that God will give him the strength. He didn't have it of himself. 

And if he was worried about his wife, the best gift he could give was to be the best husband any woman ever had for the "x" amount of time he had left.  
And who should he tell and when.  Surely not before he saw the oncologist again.  Maybe it would be best if he didn't say anything.  He didn't want people getting weird about it.  Maybe he'd wait to say something until there was a bigger problem than just waiting to see what happens with the tumors.  

Or should he tell anyone beyond his family and closest friends?  If he tells someone not in the inner circle, they'll say I'm sorry then they're stuck in an awkward situation.  So he or they say something about everyone dies and no one knows when they will.  But he's still standing there thinking about the fact he IS dying.  And, they're thinking, "yuck, what am I supposed to say to that?"

He lost 2 pounds last week and 3 the week before.  He wasn't  doing anything to account for the loss. He wondered if the C was eating him up.  Who knows it might beat dieting.

He was tired more that he wanted to admit.  

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Sleepless Night

 When he went to bed, his wife asked him if he was okay.  he replied probably not. Then he began crying.  He felt like he was letting her down. 
He couldn't sleep with a bi-pap and cry at the same time so he went into the great room for a couple of hours and just thought about things.    
He didn't want to go through what would be entailed with a shorter bowel.  And he didn't want to go through months of wound therapy because his belly split like it did last time.  But, if she wanted him to he would. 
He decided that he would get a second opinion about what his daughter, the doctor, was said from the surgeon who nursed him back to health the last time and from the oncologist.
   He decided that he would not have any surgery or oblation.  No surgery was easy. He didn't want the side affects.  
He thought his small bowel was a breeder of neuro endocrine tumors (NETs).  The 3 lymph nodes that are now tumors if removed would only be replaced by more tumors.  And that eventually the NETs would go to his Liver, Lung or Brain and take him out.       
It had taken almost 10 years for the nodules in 2011 to cause problems if they were in fact the cause of his internal bleeding problem and not just some directiculum that decided to bleed.  He didn't think he'd get 10 years this time before they cause problems.  But he'd get some time and it will be high quality life like he was experiencing now, not short bowel diminished.

But, damn it, this is not the way he wanted for things to work out.  His wife needed him.  He felt horrible about deserting her.  
When they talked in the morning she said, "All I ever wanted was to marry a man who loved me totally for who I am.  And I got to do that."  

He cried!

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Now What?

He had a daughter who was a physician.  In a conversation with her mother (his wife), she said "you must not let anyone operate on him."  

Because that could mean any number of things, he asked her during a visit to the beach what she had meant.  Did she mean she didn't like the local doctors and hospitals and wanted him to go to Houston for his next surgery?

Unfortunately, it wasn't that simple.  She meant his chances of recovering from surgery with good quality of life had a very low probability.  

Her thoughts were: 
1. He had big time problems with low blood pressure last time and probably would again. 
2. Diabetes has left his tissues very weak. She compared them to wet Kleenex and said that sewing wet Kleenex doesn't work.  And, that the reason he had a gaping wound last time was because of this problem. 
3. She thought he had so many antigens in his blood now that he couldn't count on there being enough blood if something goes wrong in surgery. 
4. Last time he was in near Kidney failure.  He should expect that again.  And he might wind up on dialysis.
5. He has short bowel symptoms now.  If more of his small bowel is removed, he will have problems with dehydration because he would not be absorbing enough liquids.  He might be forced to drink Ensure for nourishment because it passes through the gut the slowest or be hooked up every night for TPN.  And he would experience much more problem with diarrhea probably to the extent that he would be home bound. 
6. The possibility of an infection taking him out is high.     

He asked her what would happen if he had the oblation  procedure.  She said she thought poking a hole in his bowel trying to reach the nodules was a bad idea.  The weak tissue healing problems and the possibility for a puncture becoming infected leaving him in the same messed up bowel situation that he had last time.  Therefore not a good idea 

She said he could fight the cancer and probably have these results which would limit the quality of life or he could decide to make the most of the time I have left and do nothing. 

He asked, "What do we do if it metastasizes to my Liver or Lung."  She said to ask his oncologist.

He thought Holy Shit!

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Free Fall by Robert Crais

Today I read Free Fall by Robert Crais.

#4 in the Elvis Cole PI series.  Elvis Cole is hired by a young woman to find out what is going on with her fiancĂ©. Mark Thurman is an LA cop and she thinks he’s in some sort of trouble. When Thurman himself shows up in Elvis’ office and basically says ‘go away I’m involved with another woman’, Elvis figures his work is done. Jennifer Sheridan, however refuses to believe it and convinces Elvis to keep digging.

And the madness is on!  A good read.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Savage Run by C. J. Box

Today I read Savage Run by C. J. Box.

Laconic Joe Pickett returns to his slightly offbeat duties in Wyoming's Bighorn Mountains in C. J. Box's Savage Run. Joe is called to the scene when an exploding cow kills a famous ecoterrorist, Stewie Woods, and his bride of three days, who were peacefully spiking trees. A visit to the cow's pugnacious owner leaves Joe defensive, angry, and curious: Why doesn't the rancher ask any questions about the bizarre accident that happened on his land? Then Joe's wife, Marybeth, begins receiving phone calls from her high-school boyfriend—-the peculiarly healthy-sounding Stewie Woods. Stewie may or may not be alive, but his old pal Hayden Powell and other environmental activists are all turning up deceased in strange circumstances. As the body count climbs, Joe tries to sort out the bad guys, the good guys, and the truly dead guys in this sometimes funny, sometimes angry sequel to Box's award-winning first novel, Open Season. Box depicts the spare beauty and cussed individualism of the inter-mountain West with the sure hand of a seasoned writer. --Barrie Trinkle

Joe Pickett is still my favorite game warden.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

The Fifth Witness by Michael Connelly

Today I read The Fifth Witness by Michael Connelly.

  • Mickey Haller (the Lincoln Lawyer) has fallen on tough times. He expands his business into foreclosure defense, only to see one of his clients accused of killing the banker she blames for trying to take away her home. Mickey puts his team into high gear to exonerate Lisa Trammel, even though the evidence and his own suspicions tell him his client is guilty. Soon after he learns that the victim had black market dealings of his own, Haller is assaulted, too, and he's certain he's on the right trail.
A fun read if you are a Connelly fan.  I am.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Just One Look by Harlan Coben

Today I read Just One Look by Harlan Coben.

An ordinary snapshot causes a mother’s world to unravel in an instant. After picking up her two young children from school, Grace Lawson looks through a newly developed set of photographs. She finds an odd one in the pack: a mysterious picture from perhaps twenty years ago, showing four strangers she can’t identify. But there is one face she recognizes—that of her husband, from before she knew him. When her husband sees the photo that night, he leaves their home and drives off without explanation. She doesn’t know where he’s going, or why he’s leaving. Or if he’s ever coming back. Nor does she realize how dangerous the search for him will be. Because there are others interested in both her husband’s past and that photo, including Eric Wu: a fierce, silent killer who will not be stopped from finding his quarry, no matter who or what stands in his way.

Her world turned upside down, filled with doubts about her herself and marriage, Grace must confront the dark corners of her own tragic past she struggles to learn the truth, find her husband, and save her family. ~ GoodReads

Hang on for a twisty ride.  Coben will suprise you.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Two Minute Rule by Robert Crais

Today I read Two Minute Rule by Robert Crais.

Max Holman knew the two minute rule: Get in, get the cash, and get out. But two minutes can be a lifetime. . . . In one moment of weakness he botched a bank job and was sent away for years. Now released from prison, Max wants to reconcile with his estranged son, an L.A. cop. Instead he receives the devastating news that his son's been gunned down in cold blood. To uncover the truth about the killing, Max aligns with Katherine Pollard, the ex-FBI agent who put him away -- in a father's search for justice and revenge. ~ Goodreads

Crais at his best.  And that's really good.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Worth Dying For by Lee Child

Today I finished reading Worth Dying For by Lee Child.  I'm sure I'll have a hard time telling you what the plot was about in six months.  Maybe even two months.  But who cares.  This is Reacher.  I love him.  

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Creole Belle by James Lee Burke

Today I read Creole Belle by James Lee Burke.

It's a Dave Robicheaux story with a lot of preaching.  Not my favorite dish.  I understand the post-Katrina anger.  I have lived it.  Between Ivan and Katrina, I was knocked out of my house for eighteen months.

It carries a practical lesson for my work in progress which is set at the time of the BP oil spill and the anger overflowing at that time.  A little bit of anger goes a long way.  The reader of my novel is coming to find escape and pleasure.  Not an angry diatribe.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

The Cold Dish by Craig Johnson

Today I finished The Cold Dish by Craig Johnson.

Walt Longmire, sheriff of Wyoming's Absaroka County, knows he's got trouble when Cody Pritchard is found dead. Two years earlier, Cody and three accomplices had been given suspended sentences for raping a Northern Cheyenne girl. Is someone seeking vengeance? Longmire faces one of the more volatile and challenging cases in his twenty-four years as sheriff and means to see that revenge, a dish that is best served cold, is never served at all. ~ Goodreads

A delightful story.  I'll be reading more Longmire.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card

Today I finished reading Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card.

I read Ender's Game because it had been used as an example of How-To write a novel in several books I've read.

I got so wrapped up in the storytelling that I probably missed what I was supposed to see.  A thoroughly enjoyable read.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Art and Craft of Story by Victoria Mixon

Today I finished reading Art and Craft of Story by Victoria Mixon.

This is a great book with a lot of good stuff I wish I knew by heart.

I rate the book 4 stars.  Its really, really good.

She lays out the three act structure as:

Act I: Hook containing HOOK and CONFLICT #1
Act II: Development containing  CONFLICT #2 and CONFLICT #3
Act III: Climax containing  FAUX RESOLUTION and CLIMAX

The new thing she brought to the table for me was breaking down each of these six PARTS so that each part has its own Hook, Conflict (1-3), Faux Resolution and Climax.  This is an over simplification of what she's teaching.  I see it as a very useful and powerful tool in developing structure.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Scenes vs. Sequels - The Furies of Calderon by Jim Butcher

I am trying to get my head wrapped around a writing technique that employs two kinds of scenes.  One is based on action with scenes have three parts: 1) a goal; 2) conflict; and 3) disaster.  The second kind is based on reaction.  Its three parts are: 1) emotional reaction; 2) dilemma; and 3) decision. 

The action scene with goal, conflict and a disaster seems to be taught widely by almost all of the books I've read on how to write a novel.  The idea of following the action scene with a scene that deals with the emotional reaction to the previous action, a period of review, logic and reason which leads to a choice of how to proceed, is not widely taught.

In 2010, I began following Randy Ingermanson’s blog Advanced Fiction Writing.  One of the unique writing techniques he described was the concept that there are two kinds of Scenes (with a capital “S”).  The first is a Scene where action is responsible for movement through the Scene.  The second is a Scene where reaction is responsible for movement through the scene.  In his blog he called these MRUs motivation-reaction units. 

Ingermanson gives credit to Dwight Swain credit for ‘inventing’ MRUs.  The concept is discussed at length in Techniques of a Selling Writer by Dwight V. Swain, 1965.  I read the book and thought it was interesting but I didn’t have a clue how to implement the technique.

In 2012,  I began following the blog, Wordplay: Helping Writers Become Authors, by   K.M Weiland.  Ms. Weiland has recently been writing an excellent series of blog posts on this concept of action vs. reaction Scenes which she refers to as scenes (with a small c) and sequels.  It is an excellent series and I recommend it to all interested in learning more about the use of action scenes and reaction sequels. 

In one of her posts she mentioned the author, Jim Butcher, in connection with scenes and sequel.  I've gone back to try to find where she led me to Butcher, but I couldn't retrace my discovery.  She perked my interest in Jim Butcher, who was then unknown to me.  

I did some Googling and found that he was a New York Times Best Seller List author of fantasy novels.  I also discovered that back in 2006 he posted to a blog, Jims Livejournal useful instruction on scenes and sequels.  He really makes the technique seem simple and easy to do.  He said that that is the way he has written every novel he has written.  A scene followed by a sequel.

Butcher writes in Jims Livejournal:
Sequels are what happens as an aftermath to a scene. They do several specific things:

1) Allow a character to react emotionally to a scene's outcome.
2) Allow a character to review facts and work through the logical options of his situation.
3) They allow a character to ponder probable outcomes to various choices.
4) They allow a character to make a CHOICE--IE, to set themselves a new GOAL for the next SCENE.

Do you see how neat that is? Do you see how simply that works out? 

1) Scene--Denied!
2) Sequel--Damn it! Think about it! That's so crazy it just might work!--New Goal!
3) Next Scene!

Repeat until end of book.

See what I mean? Simple. And you can write a book EXACTLY that way. Scene-sequel-scene-sequel-scene-sequel all the way to your story climax. In fact, if you are a newbie, I RECOMMEND you write your book that way. You can always chop and cut the extra scenes (or sequels) out later, and you will have a solid bedrock structure for getting your book done.” 

Today, I finished reading Furies of Calderon by Jim Butcher.  It is wonderful fantasy novel.  I thought if I read this book and study it I’ll be able to see how it is when you write a scene followed by a sequel.
The book is about 500 pages in length.  It’s a good story and I hated to put it down.  Maybe that’s why I couldn't see the lines of demarcation between scene and sequel.  In those 500 pages there was only one sequence that I could point to and say this is the scene and this is the sequel.  It was seamless and it was wonderful.

Now, I’m torn between putting my analytical hat on and tearing each chapter apart to find how he buried the sequels so naturally.  Or, buying the next book in the series and really enjoying myself. 

If you like fantasy, add Jim Butcher to your list of must read authors.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Turning Angel by Greg Iles

Today I read Turning Angel by Greg Iles.

Turning Angel is the second book in the Penn Cage series.  It is set in Natchez, Mississippi.

The first book, The Quiet Game, was a delightful read so I was looking forward to the next book in the series.

Also, my work in progress Bon Secour is set in South Alabama.  I am a Southern boy and I imagine that all of my books will be set in the South.  I want to be an authentic Southern writer.  It is important for me to read contemporary Southern authors to absorb their style.

The story is a great read.  I enjoyed it thoroughly.  I'm looking forward to reading Devil's Punchbowl, the third book in the series.

The greatest praise for a book is, "I can't wait to read the sequel."

Saturday, January 26, 2013

The Racketeer by John Grisham

Today I finished reading The Racketeer by John Grisham.

I really enjoy Grisham's novels.  They are delightful, easy reads.

I thought this one is one of his best recent novels.  The plotting was superb.  I didn't see the twists coming.  And that makes for a great read.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Telling Grammar by Kat Duncan

Today I read Telling Grammar by Kat Duncan.

After I finished writing my short story, They Went to Biloxi, I began to think about whether to engage the services of an editor to look over my story.  My daughter writes romance fiction and she has used Kat Duncan for editing.  She sings high praises for Kat's editing skills.

I searched the internet for Kat Duncan and found her website.  I noticed that she had written Telling Grammar and that it was available as a Kindle book.

I bought the book to read thinking it would be a good way to learn more about Ms. Duncan's writing skills.  I found them to be first rate.  I've been exposed to everything grammar-wise that she covers.  But, like some of my other life lessons this exposure didn't stick very well.  I'm guilty of many grammatical errors.

One of my problems is that I don't think it's that important for me to use a Past Present Participle properly.  I think it's more important to tell a good story.  I think if I do most readers will forgive me.  Mainly because they don't know the rules either.  But I have doubts.  So, I'm thinking about using an editor.

The book covers the rules of grammar from a storyteller's view which is unique.  It tells you when something is incorrect but acceptable in a novel.  I like that sort of not so up-tight thinking.

The magic in the book for me was when it began to cover what I'll describe as the ART of wording.

When I learned to fly, the rhapsodic, emotional feeling of soaring with the birds that many pilots rave on about totally escaped me.  To me, flying was a mechanical skill to be learned and practiced.  I never felt like a bird.  I never wanted to be a bird.

I've read a quotation by Truman Capote to the effect that he wrote for the pleasure of hearing the words as he wrote.  That emotional connection with words escapes me.

Kat Duncan's Telling Grammar has a wonderful section on sentence structure with tremendous practical examples of sentence wording to achieve emotional results.  For the first time, I think I'm beginning to understand why you might spend effort on perfectly saying something.  As opposed to simply letting it flow from your unconscious onto the paper.  For example, is it better to say "on saying something perfectly"?  :)

Powerful stuff to consider.

I recommend the book.  It's a great source for grammar rules, but it is much more.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Story by Robert McKee

Today I finished reading Story: Substance Structure, Style, and the Principles of Screenwriting by Robert McKee.

I have seen advertisements for Robert McKee's seminars on screenwriting in several writing magazines.  The seminars are usually held in locations which would involve considerable expense in time and money to attend.

When I realized he had written Story, I purchased a copy and then looked at it sitting on my bookshelf for a year or so.  I started reading Story about six months ago.  I started, stopped and started again many times.  It's not that it's a hard book to read.  It is just so full of stuff I think I need to know.  It's deep.  At times, too deep for me.  I think it's the type of book that becomes a reference used many times.

I love being organized.  I'd rather organize what I'm going to do than to do it.  I've studied structure as taught by several authors.  I thought this was going to be a book about screenwriting structure.  And, while the subject is covered, that's not what the book is about.

Simply put, the book is about telling a story.  What works and why.  What doesn't work and why.  While his perspective is from the movies point of view, isn't this what all novelists, playwrights, and screenwriters want to do, to tell a good story.

p237 "To tell a story is to make a promise:  If you give me your concentration, I'll give you surprise followed by the pleasure of discovering life, its pains and joys, at levels and in directions you have never imagined."

Yeah, that's what I want to do.  I think this book has taught me many things that will help me accomplish this goal.

I rate this book as five stars.