Friday, January 01, 2016

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

BOOK LOG 51: DRIVING HEAT

by Richard Castle, of course!

I had forgotten I hadn't mentioned this book, arrived as it did late in the year amid everything I've been doing. I continue to like this series, but I have to wonder about the editing process. Psychologists don't prescribe meds, okay? Psychiatrists do. You have to have a medical degree, which psychiatrists do (as in "MD"). Psychologists have doctoral degrees, which are PhDs—which are simple things enough to remember, and you'd think that both Jameson Rook and Nikki Heat are smart enough, and educated enough, to know that.

I think the problem here (or I should say my problem because I can't forget it), or perhaps multiple problems, is that the dual realities here (well, there are three, but let's not confuse things, because things are already confused), while mostly sliding past each other, are beginning to bump against each other. In this novel, Nikki has been promoted to a supervisory position, and using an old subplot from Castle the TV series, Rook is briefly a suspect. But that was a few seasons ago on the series, so unless you've seen every episode (which I have, I realize now), that might be a fresh twist out of nowhere. Whoever the ghostwriter is this time, he or she has done a journeyman job, and it was a good-enough read, but not great. Happy ending, at least.

Part of the malaise is because of the thorough disenchantment with the current season, which seems to be a pervasive attitude among its viewers. Castle the series just went through the first half of the season with Castle and Beckett separated for the flimsiest of reasons, and even with the guest stars (who were top rate in themselves), it seemed sad and weird. Not well organized. If you're dealing with a rom-com-dram (you can figure that out, can't you?), you can't cut out the rom-com part and then wonder why the audience is shaking their heads at dram only.

Anyway, there is speculation about the end of the series because of all this, and I assume that would mean the same about the books. One supports the other, and in the past, that's worked well. The cracks are showing now. Can the writing and the editing be brought up to snuff? Can the series be tightened and a series editor who can be kept on board be in the near future? I hope so!

Friday, December 25, 2015

Happy Holidays!


Happy holidays, for you and you and you!


Monday, December 21, 2015

Being a Writer, Q&A


By Elizabeth MS Flynn, writing as Eilis Flynn

I was asked to be on an authors’ panel for a local writers’ group (the Evergreen RWA chapter up in Everett, WA) recently, along with Pam Binder, Darlene Panzera, and Laura Navarre. It was definitely an honor to be on a panel with these authors, that’s for sure. Since these days I’m spending more time editing (because that’s where the money is, and since it’s the full-time job right now, thank goodness for that!) and writing as a sideline (since the rights to all five of my non-self pubbed books are back in my hands), my replies were a little more of the editor/author side versus author/editor side.

1. Do you have an agent? If so, are you happy with him or her?
I had an agent, long ago, but back then I assumed that I would need someone to be organized and network with editors. After a year, when she lost three manuscripts of mine (one at a time) and she moved four times, I figured I was more organized than she was and she was not good with networking, either, so I let her go. At this point I don’t see the need. It’s one of these situations that I’ll hunt for an agent when I need formal representation. Most of the time, I can pay an attorney to look over a contract. So right now, I can talk to whomever I need to without an agent. It’s true what they say: no agent is better than a bad one.

2. What’s your writing schedule—how do you balance it with daily life?
I have a full-time editing and writing business, so it IS my daily life. I write my own fiction when I don’t have a paid editing or writing gig. And I spend nine hours a day at it at least. I stagger into my home office at 8:30 a.m., take a break for lunch if I remember to, and I’ll close up shop to make dinner. And if I don’t doze off early, I’ll write some more. I am a very fast editor but a very slow writer, so I need more time to slog along.

3. Personal favorites to read—who inspires you?
Besides my clients, whose work never fails to charm me and inspire me every time? My current favorite authors include Susanna Kearsley, who writes historical/time travel/fantasy romance, Naomi Hirahara, who writes Japanese-American mystery, and Craig Johnson, who writes the Walt Longmire mysteries. Come to think of it, Kearsley’s work often includes a mystery, so I guess I’m on a mystery kick. Kearsley’s stories often include a slip in time so that there’s always a possibility that out of the corner of your eye you’re going to see another time, and I’ve always enjoyed that aspect of historicals. Getting absorbed in that othertime, otherwhere of historicals is always fun. And makes you want to go take a trip to see a restored village!

Now, Naomi Hirahara writes about Asian-American culture in Southern California. Not only are the Asian cultural bits enlightening because she explores all kinds of Asian-American culture, her descriptions of the neighborhoods make me want to go to Los Angeles and ignore all the sparkly parts. Her detectives are Japanese-American; she has one who is an elderly Hiroshima survivor, a Kibei, who is a Japanese-American who is born here and educated in Japan, and her other detective is the opposite, a young police officer who is half-Japanese, half-Caucasian, who has a very different viewpoint of the world. 

And Craig Johnson’s books are surprising; part mystery, part Western, and even, surprisingly, part fantasy. The sheriff has had a number of visions throughout the series pertaining to the mystery of the day, and in the latest book, he’s finally admitting that the visions are starting to worry him.

4. Pet peeve in a book—how would you tweak it to make it work?
My pet peeve is if I can predict what’s going to happen. Surprise me! I’ve edited more than 60 novels in the past couple of years, and after a lifetime of reading everything I could, I have developed an instinct. It’s different from when you’re writing a novel; when you’re writing a novel, you’re immersed in creation. But when you’re editing one, you’re on the lookout for making sure the novel—like a home that’s been built—has good structure, building what comes after the creation itself, pacing and plotting and character, as opposed to enjoying the experience.

Now, I’m charmed by surprises. IF you can give an unexpected twist, IF you can make your reader smile and exclaim, “I did not see that happening!” you have succeeded. You know the adage about if you’re stuck on what should happen next, you make a list of ideas—and keep coming up with ideas? All the logical, rational ideas get thrown out. And you pick the one that comes out of the blue and ramps up the unexpected twist, and your reader is flipping the pages to find out what happens next. And sometimes, so is the author.

5. First sale? Most recent sale?
My very first sale was a comic book story when I was 18, long ago. My most recent fiction sale was for a futuristic for a small press that went out of business and hasn’t bothered to submit final royalties and it’s been a year, so self publishing does have its strong points. I’ve got five books I have the rights back for, so I have to deal with those this coming year. I’ve re-edited three out of the five, with sequels either finished or in progress for them. And a novella based on a novel I wrote back in 1986, made into a graphic novella along the way, finally coming out as a prose production. Only 30 years after the fact!

6. Most important lesson you’ve learned as a writer.
Persevere. Every time I’ve wanted to quit writing and do something that’s more lucrative, I am reminded that if I quit, I don’t know the end of the story!

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

BOOK LOG 50: TWO LEFT FEET


BOOK LOG 50: TWO LEFT FEET
by Lori Lyn

First of all, the details: I received this book free, and since I was between previously scheduled books for reading, the timing was perfect for me to dive in. I’ve also known the author for a number of years through my RWA chapter, so there was that factor.

What did I expect when I started to flip the pages? Honestly, my mind was blank (as it so often is when I begin something); I hadn’t checked to see if the book was a mystery or a historical romance or contemporary sweet, or something else. So when the first chapter was almost pitch-perfect satire stemming from a certain tween phenomenon, I was immediately confused and had to read further. Was this parody, humor, satire? Turned out (immediately), it was not. I had to keep reading to find out what.

It turned out to be a mystery, and here’s the thing. Two Left Feet is parts graphic mystery and cozy mystery, sweet and not, and overall so very readable. The style seemed to indicate cozy (think Agatha Christie), but then when the story revealed a serial killer working quickly and efficiently (so very efficiently!), I kept getting flashbacks to Cabot Cove. Really, as the situation escalated, I kept thinking of how Jessica Fletcher, the lady detective of the TV show Murder, She Wrote, secretly had to be a serial killer, considering how many mysterious deaths kept cropping up in her little town. Same here. But it’s not our lady detective in this case, Abbey Rhoads (and me a lover of puns, her name tickled my fancy too). Who is it? The ex-FBI agent has to find out fast, because it’s not a very big town and corpses are being found every day!

Truthfully, I don’t read many mysteries any more -- too easy to figure whodunnit, although I’m told that’s part of the joy of ‘em -- but this one kept me turning the pages to find out what happens next, and that’s what you want them to do. Kudos to Lori Lyn. And hope that the small town has transplants for the next book, because it sure needs it!

COMING UP: I have a few candidates. What will it be?

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

BOOK LOG 49: NAMED OF THE DRAGON


BOOK LOG 49: NAMED OF THE DRAGON
by Susanna Kearsley

It seems to be inevitable that every British author, even the Canadian ones, has to produce at least one book involving the Arthurian legend. I guess it makes sense in that those stories are part and parcel of who they are, and in fact they also make up a large part of what Americans are. The difference, of course, is that Americans, by dint of being a combination of many different traditions, have more to choose from (and if you’re someone like me, you spend a lot of time gleefully looking at as many as you can and comparing and trying to focus on origins and…but back to our subject at hand). Anyway, Arthur Pendragon and his tragedies and triumphs make up a large part of the English-speaking imagination, so as I was saying, it was inevitable that Kearsley would take on a snippet of the classic story and spin it into one of her own.

And when I say “snippet,” I truly mean it. In Named of the Dragon, our heroine, a literary agent, comes to a small village in Wales in which to spend Christmas with one of her authors, and encounters odd folk (but isn’t that par for the course in these small-town stories?) and odd mysteries involving a spacy young widow (compared with our heroine, an older, balanced widow) and her defenseless baby. Like in all of Kearsley’s stories, her descriptions make me want to go find the town and walk its streets, but in this case, I would want to do in broad daylight, because things seem to happen in the evening and during the night in this sweet little village. Sinister, disturbing things.

Of course, since this is a holiday story (y’know, Christmas, lights, tokens of appreciation, and so forth), there is a heart-warming denouement. So what’s my problem? This story has all the pieces of a holiday story and yet I walked away unsatisfied. Part of it may be that this is a reprint of an early Kearsley story, basically released (as far as I can figure) to fill in the long months between newer works from the author. The pace is slower, and the writing and twists not as stunning crisp as the earlier works from her I’ve read. (And in the case of The Rose Garden and Every Secret Thing, actual sniffles. Although the latter is not yet available in the US from the author’s current publisher, so that too is an earlier work.) Heart-warming, yes. But a tad slower getting there.

Here’s what it comes down to. Is it a lovely holiday story? It is. Is it memorable? It is. Will I reread it? Yes. Is it worth your while? Absolutely!

COMING UP: Two Left Feet by Lori Lyn!

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

BOOK LOG 48: POLDARK: Demelza


by Winston Graham

So after I finished reading the first book about Ross Poldark, I had to hunt down for the second book in the Poldark series, Demelza. The first two books roughly make up the first season of the new Poldark show, so I knew sort of what was coming up, even though the show deviates from the books. And the description of Demelza in Graham’s original works also deviates from the TV show, so as I was reading this, the second book in the series, I had to replace my memory of the red-haired actress in the show with the image of the dark-haired pixie described in the books. Maybe it’s just me, but the combination of the impossibly handsome actor (who played the dwarf Kili in the Hobbit movies) and the beautiful “flame-haired” actress (really, that’s a good description) brought to mind an Irish family saga. Same approximate part of the world (although not necessarily origins, but that’s a whole ‘nother blog post), though. The dark-haired petite young woman whom Graham describes somehow seems more fitting for the Cornish coast.

Anyway, Demelza the novel covers the story of the former ragamuffin turned young wife and mother, and how her rough upbringing comes to blows, basically, with the slightly snootier world of the Poldarks. But her motives are good, and what she does in her attempt to make others happy I found both heartening and finally heartbreaking. If you’ve seen the series, if you didn’t tear up at that point, you are heartless. Honestly.

So far, these two books are good for the soul. The smugglers’ havens of the natural caves and the wild coasts of Cornwall remind us of how hard a living could be for those who weren’t the dukes and earls and barons about whom there are so many books, and how even while life hangs in balance, it has joys and sorrows.  

COMING UP: Whatever catches my eye next!