Month: March 2010

Book Review: Artemis Fowl, the Time Paradox

by Eoin Colfer.

You know how I said, for the previous Artemis Fowl book, that the moral of the story wasn’t hitting you over the head or anything?

Yeah.  Not the case here.

Artemis’s first real caper (before the events in book 1) was to kill the last of a species of lemur, selling it to a group of people who condemned animal species to die for being expensive to preserve and useless to humanity in general.  However, it’s the brain fluid of this very monkey that will save Arty’s mother from a terrible fairy plague that he accidentally gave his mother.  She’s doomed to die unless they use the powers of the demon Number One to send Arty and fairy Holly Short into the past to rescue the lemur.

The book would have been unbearably preachy if it were anyone else writing it, and I even agree with the guy.  However, with the action and (spoiler!) romantic plot elements, it was a run read.

I listened to it over audiobook.  There’s a different reader, Enn Reitel, than the previous books in the series.  He doesn’t do Irish as well, but does Cockney better.  Very fun.

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Book Review: Snow Falling on Cedars

by David Guterson.

I am so far behind on blogging.  Holy cow.  The mystery project is going well, and I wrote my ass off today, but now I want to clean off my desk!

I picked up this book from Goodwill a while ago.  Sometimes I like to cruise Goodwill for trade paperbacks that look like women’s fiction yet literary, buy them, and read them when I feel like I haven’t read enough modern, non-genre fiction.  However, women’s fiction is a genre now, so that tactic isn’t going to work forever.  I read Memoirs of a Geisha that way, and Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood.

I picked this up along the same lines.

Nope.  Not all trade paperbacks are women’s fiction.  This is definitely not a woman-centric book.  Spoilers follow.

It’s the story of how a woman is fought over by two guys, while one of the guys is suspected of murdering someone else.  You know what the crux of the story is?  One of the guys has a major revelation that the woman is never going to leave her husband for him.

OH.  MY.  GOD.  That is so, like, um, deep.

There are seven or eight POV characters.  The book’s wonderfully written, stylistically speaking, and every male character in it is totally engaging.  The women are all one-dimensional bitches of one stripe or another.  I mean, I know you’re not supposed to read a book from a “Get Them Evil White Male Writers” perspective, but it just got under my skin, the way the former lover never listens to the woman, and how she never had anything to say, couldn’t express herself, and how the man, even at the end, never got it, that she really just wanted him to leave her alone.  Really.  Anybody who said it was tragic and romantic because the white guy and the Japanese American girl couldn’t marry during WWII deserves to get smacked up the side of the head.  The fact that the major revelation revolved around the guy admitting the possibility that the woman could possibly have an opinion of her own made me want to spit.  The guy was scum, okay?  How is that supposed to be romantic?  Would you want this guy stalking your daughter?  I think not.

Call me bitter.  But I was disappointed.

As far as the mystery of who killed the MacGuffin, it was okay.  No Agatha Christie or anything.  But okay.

I just watched the trailer for the movie.  GAK.

The new beginning of my novel Alien Blue!

I went to the Pikes Peak Writers Spring Workshop on how to hook your readers within 120 words today.

I came away with a light in the attic, a threshold cross, the perfect souffle.

The intro isn’t perfect, but NOW I HAVE A CLUE on how to open a story.  This, in and of itself, is worth crowing about.

Here’s the short explanation, which will not be nearly as good as the long explanation, but it’s the best I can do:

There are things in this world that stop you in your tracks, that keep you from moving forward in your life in a dramatic way.  Diagnosis of brain cancer.  Shipping out to war.  Harassed by a cop one too many times.  Let’s call that a boulder.  Find the boulder in your story, the thing that will prevent the main character from going back to the way things were.  (It’s okay if he doesn’t know it for what it is.)  Start there.

Note:  If you find that, in the first 120 words, you have to explain why the first 120 words should hook the reader (but before her mom died of brain cancer, she murdered the main character’s father) then start there instead.

Incidentally, your reader won’t care about backstory until she cares about the character, so cut the backstory.  Your goal is to have such an engrossing scene that nobody cares what the backstory is.

Got it? Here’s how I rewrote the beginning of Alien Blue. It’s not perfect (not yet), but it’s about 1000 miles closer to what it needs to be:

The goddamned aliens were coming at dawn to invade the bodies of everyone in town and kill anyone who resisted.  And then the daughter Bill never knew he had walked into the bar.

He knew because she looked just like her mother.

“We’re closed,” Bill  said.

The young woman’s jaw jutted out, and Bill had a flash of deja vu.  The bar, as any fool could plainly see, was packed.

“Er, and there’s no room anyway,” Bill added.

The girl spotted the empty table he’d left at the back of the room.  “I’m here to meet somebody,” she said.  “He’s supposed to be wearing a cowboy hat with a pink band.  Have you seen him?”

Bill couldn’t help touching the Twins cap covering his bald spot.  “Nope.”

The girl pointed to a table near the bar.  “Isn’t that him?”  Bill turned his head to look, and the girl made a break for the back table.

Bill hadn’t even met his daughter, and he was going to get her killed.

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