Monthly Archives: October 2017

Looking to November

Do you ever have something you have to do, and you put it off because it seems like such a monumental task, then you do it and you realize you had like 20 minutes of work left to do on it?

Yeah, that was me with the last bits of editing on my story.

When I sat down to do it, Friday, I guess it was, I was expecting to put in an hour of work, and still have more to do the rest of the weekend. I hadn’t looked at it in so long, I’d forgotten that I was nearly done. This meant the rest of my weekend was freed up to give it one more read through (though I’ll be honest, I only read the second half, the half I’ve been working on. I’m a little bored of reading the whole thing through). And it’s not awful. I like it a lot better than before. And even though I pasted all the chunks I cut into a separate word document, just in case I needed it again, I didn’t even really miss it.

With November just days away, my goal for this weekend was to wrap up this session of editing, and I accomplished that. Now, I’ll set it aside and let myself dive into a new project for a while, letting new ideas flow. Maybe after the first of the year, I’ll return to “The Town” (still just a working title, I think) and see if it’s gotten better or worse with age.

November, of course, is a special month. And for me, the easiest month for me to write. Something about the crazy and the solidarity of people all around the world doing the same thing I’m doing gives me motivation I don’t get throughout the rest of the year. It makes it the best time to get down a draft of something new. And, in case you haven’t noticed from my other posts about it, I’m excited for my project this year, even if it does seem lame that the general idea came from a dream.

It’s feeling fairly normal now to jump into a project with it only halfway planned, but I’ve enjoyed that method so far. It gives me just enough freedom to let the story lead itself (not that I can’t change things on the way, or even after the fact, as editing has shown me). But it makes the process easier, while still letting me enjoy watching the story unfold as we go. Maybe for a lot of people that doesn’t make sense, but it’s two different feelings, uncovering a plot twist during the planning stage versus uncovering one during the writing stage. It’s like being able to read a book that you wrote without knowing every detail before hand. It’s being able to make “what if?” statements, and having to wait to find out if you were right or wrong. And sometimes, you’re both.

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Meddling Kids

The first thing to know about Edgar Cantero’s Meddling Kids is that it isn’t your childhood Scooby Doo story, despite the title.

Meddling Kids is the story of the Blyton Summer Detectives Club, four teens and their dog solving crime and unmasking the villains. Fast forward 13 years and everyone has gone their separate ways, lives wrecked from the last case they solved. Or did they?

Andy Rodriguez reunites what’s left of the gang, convinced there was something more to the Sleepy Lake case, something they missed, and therefore left unfinished. When she finally convinces the others to come along, they find themselves in the thick of the most dangerous case yet, and it’s not just another guy in a mask.

Full of sarcasm, mystical monsters and some substance abuse, the Blyton Summer Detectives Club suffers from some serious PTSD, but they’re resolved to get to the bottom of it, no matter what it takes.

This book immediately caught my attention because of the comparison to Scooby Doo. From the get go, it seemed like it was going to be good.

The writing was fun, easy to read and Cantero kept the pace moving, even while developing his characters and setting the scene. In a unique mix of traditional dialogue and almost script writing, you go from observing everything in the scene to snapping your head back and forth between the characters. While different, the style worked for Cantero.

This book definitely isn’t for anyone who wants to believe in the innocence of their favorite childhood detectives. Let’s just say “jinkies” isn’t the expletive of choice for this club, and Scooby snacks aren’t the drug of choice.

But it’s a fun story, and a fun break from the “real life” detective stories about things that could really happen.

So if you’re looking for something fun to read, and nostalgia as a plus for you, be sure to check out Meddling Kids.

Failing in Fall

So, my last post about writing was a glowing review of how my September writing goals were, mostly, successful. And I set myself some goals for October.

And naturally I didn’t accomplish any of them.

First, I haven’t even really looked at my editing project, despite really wanting to have it mostly wrapped up by the end of this month. I also hoped to have my November project mostly plotted out and ready to go. On that front I’ve had a little bit more success.

I’ve plotted out the first 10 or so chapters, and I’ve got a fairly good idea of where my story is going. So, for anyone who cares to know, here’s a little sneak peek.

The main character and her best friend are playing in an abandoned house as children when the best friend disappears. He’s never found, and she gets written off and put in therapy.

Fast forward 10 years, and she’s still been trying to make sense of what happened to her friend. She’s revisited the building and researched it, and seems to have found an answer. The next time she visits the house, she disappears too. When she comes to, she’s alone in the same house, but in a world that seems darker, like it’s dying. Guards find her and take her to the king, where she finds out the world is dying, because it lost its magic. Ten years ago, another person came through and promised to find a solution. They’ve been waiting ever since. She determines it must have been her friend. She sets out to find him, only to discover he’s trapped as a slave to a powerful magician. To even have a chance to save the world, she has to save her friend first.

 

I haven’t quite nailed down how it ends. It may be that the hero passes on saving the world, realizing she needs to take care of herself first, and that not every problem is hers to solve. Maybe she and her friend will save the world and become heroes. Or maybe everyone will die and the world will end. It’s still early in the planning process, truthfully, and I like to let the story tell itself, even in the planning stage.

Additionally, I really need to take some time to pick out names. I don’t want to complete yet another writing project with a placeholder for a name throughout the whole thing. Once was enough for me.

I’ve got nine days left to get myself ready for November (as though I’m ever really ready. That’s half the fun). But, I just might do it, if I can find some motivation. And turn the TV off. The whole “writing while watching” thing is perhaps the single biggest lie I tell myself in life.

Endurance

Seriously, sometimes I think I majored in the wrong thing. From a young age, I remember always thinking it would be cool to be an astronaut. For now, though, I’ll just live vicariously through their biographies.

I was excited to see an advanced copy of Scott Kelly’s biography, Endurance A Year in Space, a Lifetime of Discovery. It took me only a couple days to read through it.

Like many astronauts, Kelly got his start as a military test pilot, though the road to test pilot was anything but easy. Kelly had a rough time focusing in school, which meant his grades were anything but stellar. Kelly reflects on how Tom Wolfe’s book, The Right Stuff, was crucial in inspiring him to put his mind to the task of doing well in school so he could reach his ultimate goal of becoming an astronaut.

Once part of NASA, Kelly’s main desire was to fly shuttle missions as the pilot or the commander. Once he’d had a taste of long duration space missions, however, he realized they weren’t so bad either. Kelly’s career culmination was a year-long mission on the International Space Station during 2015-2016. The mission’s main objective was to see how the human body reacts to such a long time in space. Kelly was also able to contribute uniquely to the study because his identical twin brother, also an astronaut, stayed behind on Earth, which meant NASA could compare and contrast data.

The story is told alternately between chapters talking about Kelly’s past–everything from childhood to college to early days at NASA–and chapters talking about Kelly’s year-long mission on the ISS. While it’s a little different technique, instead of starting at the beginning and working to the end, I think it works in Kelly’s case because many people reading his biography will remember the mission, and be anxious to get those behind the scenes glimpses. I think the mixture will inspire people who might otherwise skip to the end to read the whole book.

Kelly is able to write about real danger and emergencies, and write about real tragedies, in a way that captures, I think, the attitude behind so many astronauts, that despite the dangers, the payoff is worth it.

All in all, it was an excellent read. Not too technical and not over-dramatized, Endurance reads like a sit down chat where Kelly tells you his life story, and you’re anxious to catch every word. When this book hits stores in mid-October, whether you love biographies, science, space, or just real-life adventure, this is one book you should make sure not to miss.

Odd Child Out

For a while, I’ve known Gilly Macmillan was an author I wanted to check out. In searching for thriller recommendations for a customer, her name popped up, and I’ve been biding my time ever since. When the advanced copy of her upcoming book, Odd Child Out, was up for grabs, I didn’t waste a minute snagging it.

Odd Child Out is the story of two teenage boys, Noah Sadler and Abdi Mahad, best friends, at least until Noah is found unconscious in the canal and Abdi, the only one who knows what happened, isn’t speaking. His silence and Noah’s condition makes for the perfect sensational story for an unethical cop turned crime reporter, who paints the situation as an inverted racial crime perpetrated by Abdi, a Somali refugee, and Noah, born and bred Brit.

Detective Jim Clemo, just back from mandatory leave prompted by another case involving minors and tragedy, is dedicated to finding the truth, even though it tries his new-found patience, and requires limited interaction with his ex, the unethical reporter.

While the tragedy at the canal is the catalyst for the story, within the lives of Abdi and his family, so much more is going on. And as everyone chases the truth about what happened at the canal, Abdi is caught up in his own pursuit, chasing the truth about his own life.

Macmillan’s book was an enjoyable read. Not quite as suspenseful as I would have liked, as I guessed at most of the ending, but that didn’t make it any less enjoyable to read. And for many, the twists will still come as surprises, there wasn’t much information, just a lucky guess on my part, I guess.

Macmillan writes in present tense, from everyone’s perspective, which makes for a little bit of a different style of read, but I think it worked for her, allowing the reader to feel different emotions in “real time,” as it were.

The book also touches on, and handles very well, several different sensitive subjects, including suicide, immigration, stereotyping, and backgrounds. As Macmillan writes about these different things, it’s clear she’s done her research to know how her characters would react, given their history and background, and she finds the right ways to articulate the emotions–sorrow, anger, and fear.

Conclusion: Gilly Macmillan is still on my list of authors to read more of– especially since this seemed like a second novel about Detective Inspector Clemo. I can also recommend her in full confidence, having read something of hers myself. If you enjoy suspense thrillers and investigation books, look for Odd Child Out, coming in October.

Manhattan Beach

I’ve always found something inherently intriguing about the Great Depression and World War II era. So Jennifer Egan’s book immediately caught my attention.

Manhattan Beach begins by showing Anna Kerrigan’s childhood in Brooklyn during the Great Depression. She accompanies her father on a trip to visit a business associate.

Years later the memory is stuck in her mind. Her father has disappeared and the world is in the midst of war. Anna, working in the Brooklyn Naval Yard and dreaming of being a diver, provides for her mother and her severely disabled sister. But when she starts to step out from her normal routine, Anna finds herself once more introduced to Dexter Styles, her father’s business associate from so many years ago. Anna thinks Dexter must know what happened to her father, and Anna finds herself drawn toward a different kind of lifestyle that promises excitement and ruin.

While the book was engaging and well written, I definitely expected a little more intrigue from this story. It was certainly more about Anna learning to make her own choices and deal with the consequences, as well as a story of achieving a dream through hard work and dedication. But with her father mysteriously disappearing, I thought perhaps this would be more of a plot anchor, a piece that drives the story forward. Instead, more than anything, Anna stumbles onto pieces of information related to her father’s history. Finding the truth isn’t something that really drives Anna, but it felt like it could have.

I wanted more of the “noir thriller” promised in the synopsis. While I enjoyed reading it, the book was still a disappointment, in terms of what I thought I was getting. For historical fiction, it was excellent. For intrigue, it was lacking. Even still, when this book comes out in October, it’s worth the read if you’re into historical fiction.

A recap and a flash forward

In the beginning of September, I challenged myself to try to write at least something every day. And while I didn’t get to every day (some days were just too busy, other days I just didn’t feel up to it), I feel like I made some real progress in training myself to be more consistent. Consistency is the only way I’ll ever end up with a finished product.

I’ve made some progress in my editing–which has been challenging, because in recent weeks I’ve made it quite the task for myself with a massive rewrite of the second half of the story. But even as I’ve been working through it, slowly, it’s been very fun to uncover still more hidden pieces and hidden sides of my characters.

And while it’s felt like a massive undertaking, I do believe there is an end in sight. One or two more good days, dedicated time, I might even be ready to take it from the top once more. And that’s a pretty exciting thought.

Looking ahead to the rest of the month of October (crazy, isn’t it?!) I’ve got two things to accomplish. First, of course, is completing this rewrite. Second is prepping for NaNoWriMo in November. I’ve already got the seed of the story, if you will. So this month needs to be all about cultivating it.

The basic principle is an old building/castle directly beneath a wormhole or something that will transport a person to a different time (perhaps alternate universe?). The main character is searching for someone, a childhood best friend or crush and ends up somewhere unexpected.

Obviously I’ve got a lot of work to do, story line to develop. If you really want to know, the basis of this came from a dream I had (and that a while ago). What I remember most clearly was the longing for the person missing, and the frantic searching. So, those are the themes I’m focusing on. I’ve got a month to work out everything else. And, as I’m learning in this editing stage, I’m not likely to get it all right the first time, and that’s OK. Things will develop in the editing. As long as I’ve go the bare bones to work with, I’ll be all right.

So, here’s to October, a new month and new beginnings. I’ve got two objectives, and I think I’ve got the motivation to see them through.