Month: August 2008
How Not To Write A Novel, by Mittelmark & Newman
How Not to Write a Novel. Finished 8-26-08, rating 4.5/5, how-to/writing, pub. 2008
“As a writer you have only one job:to make the reader turn the page.” page 1
If there is one thing this How-Not-To book does it is to make you turn the page. You won’t want to stop, really. This hilarious book focuses on the 200 most common mistakes that unpublished authors make and offers solutions. It provides examples of the bad writing that it is offering up for ridicule, followed by an explanation and how to fix it (if you want to be published). Let me provide a couple of examples…
“While it is your job to know a great deal about your characters, it is seldom necessary to share it all with the reader, and by ‘seldom,’ we mean ‘never.’ ” page 10
“…you should think twice before using an exclamation mark. If you have thought twice and the exclamation mark is still there, think about it three times, or however many times it takes until you delete it.” page 111
The book covers all points of your novel from plot and style to dealing with the publishing world. This is a must have for anyone writing, or even just thinking about writing, a novel. Every fiction writer will gain insight from this book and be completely entertained along the way. I found myself laughing out loud more than once, shaking my head at the poor writer being scorned until I came to the next mistake and realized that the poor writer was me. Highly recommended for all writers of fiction.
“However, if you have perversely refused to use the lessons offered in this book as we intended, and instead avoided each of the mistakes we describe, perhaps you now find yourself a published author. In that case, our follow-up book, How Not to Make a Living Wage, will be indispensable.” -the last page
Who Am I?
Lots of authors use a pen name or pseudonym. Do you think you would recognize famous authors by their real names?
Here’s how to play…Identify the famous authors by their real names. Leave a comment with the # and the pen name for the author and I’ll cross it off the list. No Googling, that’s cheating and no fun! If you know them all, please don’t guess every one, maybe five max?
Example- A. Samuel Clemens Answer-His pen name was Mark Twain
1. Charles Lutwig Dodgson Lewis Carroll, thanks to the adventurous Jason
2. William Sidney Porter (Gifts are sometimes hard to choose) O. Henry
3. Evan Hunter (The 87th Precinct is the place to be) Ed McBain, no mystery to donstuff
4. Eric Arthur Blair George Orwell, big brother would be proud of Donstuff
5. Mary Westmacott (I goofed up on this one. This is actually her pen name when this best selling mystery writer wrote romances.) Agatha Christie, no mystery to Elena Margo
6. Howard Allen O’Brien (My name seems masculine, but by vampires seem feminine) Anne Rice, thanks to Jason for not leaving bite marks
7. Alisa Rosenbaum (She shrugged her way into a movement) Ayn Rand, Roarke sends his congrats to bermudaonion
8. Mary Anne Evans George Eliot, hats off to bermudaonion
9. James Oliver Rigney Jr. (The wheels continue after all this time) Robert Jordan
The Coffin Dancer, by Jeffery Deaver
Finished 8-23-08, rating 4.5/5, fiction, pub. 1998
I am surprised after I loved the first in this series, The Bone Collector, so much that I like the sequel even better. Quadriplegic forensic specialist, Lincoln Rhymes, is back with his protege crime scene specialist, Amelia Sachs, in an all new and more personal race against the clock to catch a killer. There is no down time. From the opening pages where a federal witness is blown to bits while landing his plane to the shocking conclusion I was riveted.
The Coffin Dancer is a hired assassin that has fooled Lincoln before. A few years earlier the Coffin Dancer, named that because of a tatoo on his arm, had killed two of Lincoln’s techs and Lincoln was still incensed that he had gotten away. One of the two witnesses that Lincoln must protect is Percey, a woman pilot who has a lot in common with Lincoln. This closeness sparks Amelia’s jealousy and there is tension between Lincoln and Amelia as they race to catch a killer.
Lincoln is such a great character because he shows his strength through his intellect and not physical power. In this second book Lincoln has more electrical gadgets and is able to do more with what he has than he did in the first book. This is a top rate page turner that does not disappoint. The twists and turns are many and the writing is taut. I think this is a don’t miss for thriller fans. My only recommendation…don’t read this on a plane 🙂
How the States Got Their Shapes on CSPAN2
I don’t know how many people watch cspan2 on the weekends, but if the tv is on and I’m aimlessly clicking I always see what’s on. For those who aren’t familiar, it is Book TV on the weekends and has a series of one hour book talks with various non-fiction authors. The hour takes place in a bookstore and the author talks about his book and then takes questions from the small audience. Many of them are political and if they lean too much either way I usually skip them, but sometimes you’ll find an hour of fun learning, like l did today.
Mark Stein wrote How the States Got Their Shapes and it was published in May. I’ve always looked at the map and accepted the way the states were shaped because I assumed there was a good reason for it and now that I’ve heard from Stein I find that there are a multitude of reasons behind the funny shapes. Some of the larger influences were water, mountains, railroads, and slavery. There was also the time tested power of bribery (Montana, Missouri), some religious mistrust (Utah), and voluntary ceding of land for political purpose (Kansas) involved in the decisions. It really was fascinating.
Stein said that he wrote the book for a family on vacation and not a true scholar and that is the appeal I think. I have a new way of looking at a US map and although I have not read the book I have to recommend at least watching the cspan segment. There is a Watch Now option on this cspan2 link and also a schedule of upcoming book talks.
I really enjoyed the hour (except for 5 minutes one man in the audience wasted with his question) and plan on checking out the book to learn a little more about the lines of Ohio, which he barely touched on at all during this hour. If you’ve read the book let me know what you thought.
The Hoax, 2006
Richard Gere stars as Clifford Irving, a failed writer, who writes a fake biography of the mysterious and crazy Howard Hughes. Alfred Molina is his friend and research partner and they sell this ‘book’ to McGraw Hill using forged documents for a six figure deal. Marcia Gay Harden is his long suffering wife who will do what she can to help, even if it is dangerous and illegal.
This is based on a true story, although as Jason and I watched it we often asked ‘how true is it?’. The connection between Hughes and President Nixon was an interesting one that I hadn’t heard before. Clifford Irving was bold, reckless, delusional and also a world class liar. I find it hard to root for liars and this was no exception. I like Richard Gere and I hated hoping for his demise.
I thought the acting was good and the story was interesting. I won’t give away what happens at the end, but there is a nice wrap-up to satisfy your curiousity.
You’d better pay your library fines!
Do you have an overdue library book at home? Have you racked up a few dollars in fines? Check out this story of library use gone bad.
This Writer’s Life in Writer’s Digest
I have a subscription to Writer’s Digest and occasionally read the magazine within the month I receive it. There is lots of good stuff in there (how’s that for descriptive?) and not just for writers. One of the bright spots for me is the hilarious Kevin Alexander column called This Writer’s Life. The good news is that you don’t have to read the magazine to enjoy his writing. He has a blog
and you can check him out for yourself. I think he will make you laugh even if you are not an aspiring author. I’ll be adding him to my blogroll.
Devil in a Blue Dress, by Walter Mosley
Finished audio 8-18-08, rating 3.5/5, mystery, pub. 1990
Easy Rawlings lives in 1948 Los Angeles and is a black man who is proud of owning his home and the little bit of land that surrounds it. He has just lost his job at the plant and he is in his friend’s bar nursing the sting of being fired. Mr. Albright walks in and is hoping to hire Easy to find a white girl, Daphne, who frequents black jazz clubs. As soon as he takes the job Easy is thrust into the middle of a web of lies, threats, and lust.
I listened to this on cd and the reader, GC Simms, was wonderful. His rich voice drew me in immediately and I’m pretty sure that he could have been reading anything and I’d have been entertained. This book addresses the racial reality of the 1948, yet it feels completely current. I’d recommend it. I’ve got the movie waiting on my dvr, I’ll let you know what I think later.
Off to France
Eric and Virginie have been our friends for over fours years and today they moved to Lyon, France with 10 month old Camille. Jason and I will miss them and their friendship. We wish them nothing but happiness and a house big enough for guests 🙂 We are already looking forward to our trip to France.
“Don’t be dismayed at goodbyes. A farewell is necessary before you can meet again. And meeting again , after moments or lifetimes, is certain for those who are friends.” -Richard Bach
Camille saying goodbye to Max at our house.
The gals at the Cheesecake Factory yesterday.