What the tense?

 

I’m looking out my window right now and the sun is shining, the sky is blue, there are some puffy white clouds on the horizon…and it’s pouring down rain.  It’s such a strange sight.  Kind of magical.  I like to imagine that it’s somehow intentional.  That it’s nature’s way of tricking us into running outside without an umbrella and getting soaked.

This has nothing to do with my intended post, but I thought it was worth a mention.

On to the point…  As you probably know, if you’ve read any of my previous blog entries, I’m working on a mystery novel.  I’ve written the first small chapter and have since been outlining.  All that is going fine, except for my plot keeps running perpendicular to my tense.

For whatever reason, I chose to write this book in 1st person.  It’s something I’ve never done before.  I went through some of my old writing and I’ve never written in 1st person before.  I chose the perspective because it’s a very intimate story and I thought 1st person would match the tone I’m trying to achieve.  Part of me also wonders if it subconsciously has something to do with all the blogging I’ve been doing.  Who knows.

When I’m writing, everything goes swimmingly.  It’s a very comfortable tense to work in, much like telling a bedtime story to my two spawn; except a bit more graphic.  However, 1st person just so incredibly limiting.  While outlining, I’ll come up with a great idea that I will quickly realize is impossible to show in the 1st person.  Structurally, it’s a much more challenging tense to work in.  In fact, part of me has started resenting 3rd person; looking down on it for it’s sloth.  3rd person doesn’t have to think about how to fit tidbits of information in.  All you have to do is throw it in there.  Is something happening 437 miles away from your protagonist while he happens to chained and dangling over a pool of electric eels?  No problem, you just cut-away and let that plot-building, suspense-creating tidbit be known to the world.  But in 1st person, you’re stuck inside the hero’s head as he wonders how the hell he’s going to keep from being electrocuted eel bait… which is still very interesting, but not so revealing.

I recently finished Child 44 (which I enjoyed immensely) and it was an excellent example of how beneficial 3rd person can be in the mystery genre.  I don’t want to talk too much about it, in case you haven’t read it, but the back story, the secret life of the killer, the ‘surprise’ twist at the end – it would have been impossible to get to any of those places in 1st person.  It would have just been Ex-Agent Leo Demidov running around from clue to clue like a connect-the-dots puzzle.

I’m not about to run off and change tenses or anything – I still believe that 1st person best fits the tone of my story – but man, it’s presenting much more of a challenge than I thought it would.

Published in: on August 30, 2011 at 5:58 am  Leave a Comment  
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Thanks for the Vocabulary Lesson, Mr. Miéville.

Right now I am about 20% through with Perdido Street Station by China Miéville.  I’m not done with the book, so this isn’t going to be a review, exactly.  I’m definitely not going to alert you to any spoilers, so please feel free to read on without fear.

I was looking for something to read after finishing the worst Steinbeck novel of all time, and had a hankering for some Sci-Fi.  Other than Robert Heinlein, I don’t really have any favorite Sci-Fi authors, so I did what I always do when I don’t know what to read next; I Googled “best <insert genre here> novels” and then browsed what I found.

Perdido Street Station was on one of the lists I came across.  It has won the Nebula Award, the Hugo Award, The British Fantasy Society’s award, The Arthur C. Clarke Award and about 15 others, so I thought I’d give it a try.

It’s not the first time I came across China Miéville.  Ordered The Scar from Amazon about two years ago.  If I’m being honest, it was probably because I liked his name.  It conjured images of an exotic half-Asian, half-French female, both brilliant and beautiful.  The perfect candidate for a literary crush.

No, I didn’t bother to look-up a readily available image on the web.  Yes, I was secretly a bit put-off when the book arrived and the picture on the back was of a muscular, bald, gruff-looking man with a row of earrings in his left-ear and a scowl that I wouldn’t want to bump into in a dark alley.  No, I’m not going to admit that this triviality is why I didn’t read The Scar.  Let’s just say I never got around to it.

So, back to the point of this entry:  Vocabulary.

I have a pretty solid vocabulary.  My spelling is bad and my punctuation is embarrassing, but when I see a word (in English), 9.99 times out of 10 I know what it means.  But before I got to the 2% mark in Perdido Street Station I’d had to look up 15 words.  Here they are, below:

desultory, morbific, chitinous, cacophony (though, I thought I know this one and was right upon looking it up), salubrious, detumescing, outre, epigone, thaumaturge, nascent, carapace, susurrus, transmorgify, expostulate, dusultory.

To be fair, it’s entirely possible that I’m just an idiot and that everyone reading this post knows these words off the top of their heads.  But I’m going to assume I’m not alone here and move forward.

And to continue being fair, a few of these words are scientific in nature, and although I might have learned “chitinous” and “carapace” in high school biology, when we were going over arthropods, I’ve long forgotten them.

However, most of these words could be substituted for more commonly used vocabulary.  For example, “susurrus” means “whispering, murmuring or rustling”.  So, why not just use whispering, murmuring or rustling?  If I want to describe how two characters disagree about something, why not just show the disagreement without adding that they are “expostulating”?  Why say “desultory” when you can just say “erratic”?

Sure, if I want a succinct way to describe a man losing his erection, then “detumescing” is definitely the word for me, but is it really that succinct if the reader has to pause reading, get pulled from the world of the story, so they can look the word up?

So, basically, either Mr. Miéville just happens to have an outstanding vocabulary or his thesaurus is ever by his side and he wants you to think  he’s got an outstanding vocabulary .  Let’s assume the former, because the latter makes him kind of a douche.  Although it doesn’t sound it, I am enjoying the book and thus want to think well of the writer.

For the sake of argument, we’re going to assume that China Miéville won his 5th grade spelling bee and all of those definitions his overbearing dad made him memorize have stayed with him.  Should he, and writers like him, dumb down the vocabulary of a work so it is more accessible to a wider-variety of people? Surely, the folks down in the Marketing dept. would say yes.  But from an artistic viewpoint….

I’m split on the issue.  Part of me thinks that if he wants to throw out “salubrious” when he could use “healthy”, then he should do it.  It’s his book, after all.

And that same part of me is appreciative of of the lesson.  After all, I can now casually use “salubrious” in a sentence and impress my friends.  But should I use it in my writing?

The larger part of me thinks not.  For me, the point of my writing – my ultimate goal – is to draw the reader into the story so they become lost in it.  This is hard to do if the reader has to think “Wait…what does that mean?  I think I know, but I’d better look it up to make sure.”

Surely, there are always going to be obscure words you can use to make your descriptions more specific and clear and it is easy to assume that this would help crystalize the world you are trying to create…but a lot of that clarity is lost if your target audience doesn’t know what your talking about.

Recently, I was reading an old interview that Playboy did with Joseph Heller and Kurt Vonnegut.  Playboy was asking them why they never really described the act of sex in their writing and Joseph Heller said, “…It’s like trying to describe the noise of a subway train. There are people who can do it. Young writers go in for that type of description. But when they’re finished, all they’ve done is described the noise of a subway train coming into a station or pulling out of a station. Is that the noblest objective of a work of fiction? To convince the reader that what you’re writing about is really happening? I don’t think so.”

I’m not saying that he’s right – and in fact I don’t think there is a right or wrong here – but I tend to agree.

I don’t want to take away from Mr. Miéville’s writing or make anyone think he’s a pompous ass.  Really, after I hit the 3% mark in the book, the instances where I had to look up a word subsided to almost nothing.  The guy is a talented writer and I’m quickly becoming a fan.  But, as much as I’m enjoying the book (and I really am enjoying it), for me the first bit of Perdido Street Station was a lesson in what not to do in my own writing.

On the other hand, this guy has published nine books, and that’s nine more than me, so what the hell do I know?

Published in: on August 26, 2011 at 5:27 am  Comments (6)  
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Keeping my fingers crossed

Tuesday morning, I got an email from my buddy letting me know that he’d sent my spec script into his agent.  I spent all that day filled with a nervous giddiness that I haven’t experienced…shit…I don’t want to say “since college” because that can’t really be true – that’s much too sad to be true – but I can’t think of a specific time since then.

Surely, there was the same level of expectation and wonder before the births of both of my daughters, but there was enough horror mixed in that you can’t really put the emotion in the same category.  Horror at knowing you have no idea what you’re doing as a parent.  Horror at knowing you’d be completely helpless if something went wrong.

But this feeling…  remember that feeling when you were sixteen and you had your whole life ahead of you and you could do and be anything?  Yeah…that’s the one.

Please don’t think that I’ve strapped on a pair of rose-colored glasses.   Chances are that nothing will come of this.  I’ve sent scripts, short stories and novels out to agencies before and have gotten nothing but polite refusals.  This case is only slightly different because the script is being passed on directly to an agent by one of his clients, so there is better chance that he will actually read it instead of it getting tossed in the trash by some unpaid assistant that goes through 40 scripts a day.  But even if he reads it, the guy may hate it.  He may get to page 3 and think it’s not worth wasting his time on another page.  He may not read the thing at all.

And even if he does read the thing, and wants to read more, he may not sign me. AND even if he does sign me, 48% of all writer’s guild members are unemployed, so it could be the road to life long poverty.

But still, he might love it.  I could be perfect for a TV show that is just about to start production and will go on to be the most successful show in TV history.   And this agent, could go on to read all the other screenplays and novels that I’ve written and will write in the future and doors will open to me and success will be mine at last.

All day Tuesday I found myself swimming in a fantasy world that started with getting job as a staff writer and ended with me lounging in the cabin of my own leer jet, gazing up at my portable gold plated bookshelf filled with copies of all the novels I’d written and DVDs of all of the movies and TV shows I’d created.

Hope is a pretty amazing thing.  The feeling that maybe, just fucking maybe, your life will turn out the way you’d always dreamed it would…it’s a narcotic.  It’s what keeps me spending my extra hours working on novels that might never see the filtered light of bookstore window.  It’s what makes middle-aged actors bartend and wait tables when they could be in much more stable and high-paying jobs.  That incredible feeling of maybe.

I don’t know, but I imagine that in some ways the hope is almost better than the reality.  I’m sure G.R.R. Martin moans about having to do another reading.  Neil Gaiman probably bitches about taxes and his mortgage.  J.K. Rowling nags her daughter about finishing her homework and complains to her husband about that nasty case of athlete’s foot she just can’t seem to get rid of.

When the dream becomes reality, I’m quite certain that somewhere deep in your psyche you realize that you’re still just one single human, alive for a blink of an eye, living on a spec of dust floating through the infinity of space and that, in the grand scheme of things, your new situation is really no different than your old one.

But, like I said, having not yet achieved my dreams, I don’t know…and I would desperately love to find out.

Published in: on August 25, 2011 at 3:10 am  Comments (4)  
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Cross walking

I know I just wrote about China livin’ in my last blog entry, but something happened on the way to work today that I wanted to talk about.  This is something that I’ve seen happen a lot in my months here and it completely baffles my mind.

My coworkers and I were in the company car, going happily at along when this old woman stepped in front of the car, coming about a foot from getting smashed right into a slightly early grave.

Now, people stepping into traffic is, by itself, neither extraordinary nor interesting.  I probably can’t count the number of times I almost got run over as a kid because I didn’t bother looking before I leaped.  What’s interesting is that it didn’t seem careless.  It seems like an active decision on the woman’s part, although not a suicidal one.

One thing to remember is that in Ningbo, traffic is shit when you get out of the city.  In the city center it’s not great either but cars usually stop at red lights and are there are crosswalks at most major intersection.  As soon as you get out of the city, however, about half of the cars are replaced by 18-wheelers and construction trucks.  The traffic lights disappear and the few that you do see are, for the most part, ignored by the massive behemoths that are rumbling down the street.  It’s like they just assume that anything smaller is going get out of the way, and if doesn’t then they’ll know better next time.  All semblance of order just evaporates.  When you’re outside of town, people pass on the right, on the left, they’ll turn into oncoming traffic to pass a slow-moving car and veer back into their own lane just before a head-on collision; and they do it like it’s the most normal thing in the world.  From the lack of reaction from the drivers that suddenly find a car barreling towards them, I guess it is.

As a pedestrian – if your out of the city – you’ve got a small conundrum on your hands.  You’ve got no lights to help you get across the street.  There’s no way anyone is going to stop for you and just because you’re outside of town doesn’t mean there is less traffic, so if you want to get your chicken ass across the road you’ve got about fifteen seconds of taking your life in your hands.

I’ve had to cross the road in this sort of situation and my instinct is to wait for a small break in traffic and haul my fat ass across as fast as my little legs will carry me.  But I’ve never, EVER seen that same method from the citizens of my host country.  I see people crossing the street in this maelstrom every day on my way to work and it always goes something like this:

They stand on the side of the road, looking ahead; no left-right-left going on, they just stare straight ahead.  Then, for no discernable reason, no break in traffic, no kind car slowing down for them to pass, they step out.  Then, slow and dignified, they walk across the street at a steady pace.   What completely baffles me is that I’ve never seen anyone even flinch when they almost get hit.

Like this morning, this old lady was crossing and when we screeched to a halt an ass-hair’s breadth away from her, she didn’t look at us, she didn’t speed up and she didn’t even close her eyes and wait for the warm embrace of the afterlife to wrap her up and carry her away.  She just kept limping her ass across the road like we didn’t exist.

This kind of behavior screams against everything in me and I am completely at a loss when I try to understand it.  I don’t think these people all have a death-wish.   If that were the case, they’d just hop in front of a cement truck at the last minute and be done with it.  This morning, I asked one of my Chinese colleagues what the hell that lady could be thinking and she said, “Oh, if we hit her then we have to pay her.”

I asked, “Ok, but what if their brains are strewn all over the road?”  and after I explained what the hell “strewn” means she just shrugged and went back to talking to the other Chinese folks in the car.

This makes explanation didn’t enlighten me in the least.  Chinese people are no less intelligent than the people of any other country.  They surely know that their skull + a high speed bumper is going to = death or, at the very least, long term pain and suffering.  So there must be some other cultural view or belief that is motivating this seemingly insane behavior.

At this point in my China experience, I have no idea what that is.

Published in: on August 19, 2011 at 12:08 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Busin’ it to Suzhou

I am on the bus right now, typing this on my phone, so please forgive me if there are even more misspellings than normal.

I know I have been less than kind in my depictions of life in China. Here are a few more observations.

Lady one row up, on the right: when we got to the rest stop, instead of using a tissue, or waiting to get to the bathroom, you farmer’s blew as soon as you stepped off the bus, getting a tiny bit of your snot on the side of my shoe. Then you looked baffled when I gave you an unhappy look.

Lady two rows up, on the right: I know diapers are expensive, but you really should spring for one or two when taking the bus, or any public transportation, really. That way, you won’t have to rush your one-year-old back to the bathroom as he pisses on the floor the whole way, getting a little on my already snot-stained shoe. Then you won’t have to looked at me like I am a heartless asshole when I say “Hey!”

Lady sitting next to me: I know you like your music, and I support your right to listen to it, but next time buy some headphones so I don’t have to also.

I would ask you to turn it off, but I don’t want to be an inconsiderate foreigner 3 times on one bus trip.

Published in: on August 15, 2011 at 9:51 am  Leave a Comment  
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Rubbing off on my chillins

I know I just posted, but two things happened in the last 10 minutes that made me want to post again.

A. Anyone who knows me also knows I have a foul mouth. In an attempt to not cuss around my kids, I’ve tried to insert other sayings in the place of less socially acceptable terms. It’s not that I think these words are “bad” – I’ve always thought it’s a bit strange that we create a word and then tell ourselves not to use it, in any context – but I don’t want my daughter to get in trouble in kindergarten for saying “fuck”.

So, instead of “what the fuck?” I, upon the advice of my friend Moorhead, have started saying “What the what?”  Also, instead of exclaiming “Mother fucker!” I have tried “Mother Mother!”  I don’t always remember to clean it up, but I’m getting better.

I was just sitting with my four-year old in the living room, watching Harry Potter 7, and she goes “What the what is wrong with him, Daddy?” She couldn’t understand why I laughed for as long as I did, but I am sure she will one day.

B: I just got an email from Mr. Harwellicus pointing out that Hinesy is in the urban dictionary.

1. hinesy
the usage of sexual metaphorical content in the context of a classroom or classroom like environment with blatant disregard to socially accepted status quo

I can’t even say how much I like that.  I think blatant disregard to the socially accepted status quo is an important part of contented living:)

Also, in quick writing news:

I reworked my spec script and have sent it off.  I’ve done no editing on the young adult novel and have been outlining a lot on the mystery novel.  I think the rule of 4 pages of research and outline to every 1 page of written work is going to hold true with this thing.  (I might have just made that rule up, but I seem to remember it from somewhere).  I’m HEAVY into the outline and not even scratching the surface yet.  It’s going to be a beast to work on, but I’m having a lot of fun with it so far.

Published in: on August 14, 2011 at 7:12 am  Leave a Comment  
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Johnny Propaganda

The other day, I finished The Girl who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest, finishing all that I’ll probably ever read about Lisbeth Salander and Mikael Blomkvist.  I thought of giving a review of the two sequels, but I figure I can sum it up with “They aren’t as good as the first one, but still worth reading.”

I have been on a string of popular novels and have been feeling a little guilty about it.  I feel like I need to throw in a biography, a history or something literary every now and again so I can still convince myself I’m an intellectual.  Most people who I’ve ever discussed writing with knows what I think about John Steinbeck.

For those of you who don’t: He’s the perfect writer.  His writing is poignent and elegant while still being readable and accessible by anyone who happens to pick up one of his books.  He could fit pages of description into a perfectly worded sentence.  His stories are simple, yet tap deeply into the human experience.  As a writer, he makes me want to slit my wrists.

Another one of my favorite things in TV, film or literature, is a good story that involves the gratuitous killing of Nazis.  This love is a gift I inherited from my father during my formative years, as he sat in his lazy-boy with a Coors in one hand and a cigarette in the other, watching John Wayne blow those “Kraut bastards” all to hell.

So, of course, when I saw that Steinbeck had written a book about a WWII bomber team, my interest was piqued.  I was immediately slapped that bastard on my Kindle, thrilled that I was could satisfy my literary needs and my blood lust at the same time.

I wasn’t two sentences into the introduction before I realized that this wasn’t what I’d hoped it would be.  In fact, it wasn’t fiction at all.  It was just a propaganda piece that the Army and Hollywood has paid Steinbeck $250,000 to write.  Because it was Steinbeck, I went ahead and swallowed down the bile that was creeping up my throat and went ahead and read it.

Here’s the gist:  in 1942, we were just entering the war.  Pearl Harbor had just happened a few months before and we were still 2 years from the D-Day invasion.  The US didn’t have much of an airforce to speak of.  They were building planes like mad and desperately needed young men to climb into them to either get blown up or blow stuff up in return.  They wanted Steinbeck to write about how awesome being on a bomber team is to help convince people to sign up.

It’s strange that they would offer this to Steinbeck.  Surely, he was one of the most famous writers of the time, but none of his writing had indicated that he was any kind of hawk.  If anything, the tone of his previous works, during the depression, would paint him more as a commie pacifist.  But for whatever reason, they offered, he accepted and wrote Bombs Away.

If it was written by anyone else, it would likely be impossible to swallow.  In fact it’s just a couple hundred pages that talk about how great and honorable it is to be on a bomber team and how amazing you have to be to do it.  Because it’s Steinbeck, it just surpasses readable.

Hemingway, is quoted as saying he’d “rather cut off three fingers off his throwing hand,” than write a book like Bombs Away, which is also surprising, since so many of his books deal with, and borderline glorify war.  I would think he’d be the perfect candidate for this kind of assignment.

In fact both writers were very present during WW2.  Steinbeck worked as a war correspondent the entire war, going home with shrapnel wounds and some PTSD.  Hemingway was in Europe from June to December 1944 and was present at the D-Day invasion and the liberation of Paris.  He even got into trouble for “playing infantry captain to a group of Resistance people that he gathered because a correspondent is not supposed to lead troops, even if he does it well.”

Hemingway had been to WWI, the Spanish Civil War and WW2.  Steinbeck spent his pre WW2 life writing about the plight of the common man, but yet Ernest was disgusted at J.S.’s writing of this book for the US Army.  Maybe he just couldn’t abide a shill.

I too, don’t think much of shills; corporate, government or otherwise and it is not like Steinbeck needed the money.  In fact, as I read about this, Steinbeck’s credit rating was in serious danger of getting downgraded from AAA.  To think of one of my personal heros shilling for the US military was as heartbreaking as if I discovered my father was a pimp and crack dealer….although, my dad would look pretty fucking awesome in a pimp outfit and a gold tooth or two.

And then upon further readin’, I found out that Steinbeck was a ardent supporter of the Vietnam War and even went there to write about it.

A few things saved my opinion of him (so he can rest easy in his grave…).

A: it was a different time.  I know I would have been in full support of WW2.  It was the first time we’d been attacked by a foreign force on our homeland since the war of 1812 and I’m sure I would have been one of those people faking my birth certificate to join up at 15 (though I’m not sure why I’m 15 at the beginning of WW2 in this fantasy).

B: Steinbeck’s entire fee of $250,000 (the equivalent of $3,500,000 in today’s money) was donated to charity.

The guy obviously had very strong feelings about the war and was doing what he thought of as “his part” in the war effort.  In a way, it fits right in with the commie tendencies that pop up in his works…everyone pulling together for a common good.  The fact that the area of the war effort that he helped recruit for – being part of a bomber crew – was, percentage wise, the most dangerous assignment in WW2, he couldn’t have known when he wrote Bombs Away.  Although…a B17 is like a giant target crawling slowly across the sky, so you think he could have guessed….

Published in: on August 14, 2011 at 5:13 am  Comments (2)  
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Review time: The Girl with a Dragon Tattoo

SPOILER ALERT!!!!:

 I am probably going to spoil the shit out of this book, and every other book I ever review, so if you haven’t read that then don’t read this (unless your don’t plan to read that anyway and just love reading irrelevant info. ).

I have heard about The Girl with a Dragon Tattoo, by Stieg Larsson for years.  The thing has sold more than 15 million copies; I’d have to be dead to not have heard of it.  However, I’d always avoided it.  For some reason, anything set in Scandinavia brings to mind sparsely furnished apartments, Ingmar Bergman films, bleak month-long nights, thin blondes dressed in black, beatnik mock-turtlenecks reading the Swedish version of Sylvia Plath and eating Lutefisk.

Ok, I’ve never personally tried Lutefisk.  Who I am I to say that jellied fish is disgusting….

The ridiculous thing is that I’ve even BEEN to Scandinavia and know that it is not these things at all, but for whatever reason, when I find out a story takes place above the North Sea, there is a small hurdle that I need to get over before I’m willing to give it a chance: whether it’s Wallandar, Insomnia, or The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, part of me walks in not wanting to like the story (and all of the works I mentioned, I like very much).  I know it is probably just some sort of deep seeded prejudice that’s swimming around in my psyche, and I just need to get over myself.  Who knows…maybe my mom  burned me with a hot peice of kladdkaka when I was a toddler and I’ve never gotten over it.

Anyway, I started reading the book last week.  I’m not going to get too much into the plot.  I’ll try to sum it up in a paragraph or so.

Two main characters.

Mikael Blomkvist: a 45 year old journalist who takes a leave of absence from his job as editor of a local magazine when he’s convicted of libel.  He is offered, what seems to be, a very cushy job working on a rich old man’s autobiography for a large amount of money and finds himself wrapped up in a web of murder and deceit that goes back more than 40 years.

Lisbeth Salander: 24 year old, tattoo and piercing laden, socially inept computer hacking and investigatory genius who gets hired to help with Blomkvist’s research (After a bunch of other stuff happens that I’m not going to bother going into).

They snoop.  They get chased.  They do some chasing.  She gets raped.  She does some raping.  He has affairs with his boss.  He has an affair with a potential suspect.  They have an affair with each other.  He gets shot at.  He gets captured.  She saves him.  They catch the bad people.  He likes her.  She falls in love with him.  She decides to tell him.  She sees him with his boss-lover and leaves without telling him shit.  The end.

There it is.   Now you don’t have to bother reading it if you haven’t already

The book starts slowly.  Not trudging through mud slow, but it’s a nice leisurely pace that feels like a stroll in the park.  You’re not too invested yet but it’s still nice and pleasant.   Even the crime that’s being investigated is 40 years old, and nobody in the book really cares about it but this one, lonely old rich man.

Instead of there being a big shocker (like a body in the Louvre with one hand pointing to the Mona Lisa and the other around his tool so he can jerk off all over the reader’s intelligence), the pace in this book just slowly increases.  So, slowly you hardly notice it.  At Mid-afternoon, you’re giving it a casual read and can really take it or leave it.  Around dinner time, you suggest that the kids be allowed to watch a movie while they eat dinner so you can keep reading.  By midnight, you’re beyond caring how late you will be up or how tired you will be the next day because you have to know how this thing ends.

All in all, I give it a 8.1 on the mystery novel scale.  I had guessed who dunnit long before the end, although the way they got there was unexpected.  All in all, it was one of the best structured and most enjoyable mystery novels I’ve read in awhile…and I’ve read quite a few since the book I’m working on now is a mystery of sorts.

Now, a bit about the writer.  I read up on him a bit and was saddened to learn that he dropped dead before this thing ever got published.

Steigg Larsson was an journalist and an activist; and I don’t mean the kind of activist that throws fundraisers and holds a picket sign every now and again.  I mean the kind that goes to Eritrea and helps train a bunch of guerrillas how to use grenade launchers.  He spent a career as a journalist fighting racism and intolerance in his home country and he was a woman’s rights advocate.  He apparently also had a hard time holding down a steady job and stuck mostly to freelance work.  I doubt he had too much scratch stuffed away under his mattress.

There are 3 books in the Millennium series and so far they’ve sold 27 million copies worldwide and the guy dropped dead of a heart attack at 50, after climbing 7 flights of stairs and before seeing the first book published.

I think it sucks that a even a crazy like Van Gogh didn’t get to enjoy some of the fruits of his labor.  The fact that this seemingly stand-up guy didn’t get to take daily money baths in all of dough his books have made is a travesty.  And the fact that the woman he lived with for 30 years (but never married) gets nothing while the guy’s brother and father, whom he barely spoke to, are at home giving each other kroner massages, is almost as sad.  It seems that good people always get the dick.  Thank god I’m a jerk….

In writing news:

There isn’t any.  I did nothing last night but read.  I read 62% of The Girl with a Dragon Tattoo and 16% of The Girl Who Played with Fire.  I went to bed after 2:00am.  I’m tired.

Tonight I will probably not be writing either.  I have gotten notes back on my spec script from that friend of mine.  Very good notes: Thanks Harwellicus.  So, I will be retooling my Hollywood machine tonight instead of pounding out any towering literary achievements.

P.S.  I guess that negative reference to The DaVinci Code was a bit harsh.  I read it and think it’s an ok book…except for the prose.

Published in: on August 3, 2011 at 8:52 am  Comments (3)  
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Parleying for Some Privacy

I don’t know about any of you other writers out there, but I have to be completely alone when I’m writing.  I don’t mind if there’s noise.  I’m usually listening to music anyway.  I also consider myself “alone” if I’m in a crowded coffeeshop.  As long as there’s no one there that I actually know, I’m all good.

But, as soon as someone I know is there, I can’t stop thinking about them being there.  Obviously, knocks on the door, followed by a “Hey, how’s it going?” drive me batshit crazy.  And the hand on the shoulder and quick look at the screen from behind makes me want to strangle someone.  Even if the person is in the same vicinity as me, doing their own thing and not giving one single shit about me or my writing, its still impossible for me to keep going until they leave.

I realize that this isn’t completely reasonable on my part, but I don’t see it changing any time soon.  My wife focuses so completely on her projects that the entire world shuts down around her.  The house would be on fire and she wouldn’t notice until her hair was ablaze.  This also annoys me sometimes (like when I am trying to talk to her and I know I don’t exist in whatever world she is in) but I wish I had some of that quality.

Now, the rules regarding Hinesy’s writing time were established years ago with Wife, and now she doesn’t even knock on the door if she knows I’m writing… god, that makes me sound like an asshole… but now I have two Spawn that a: don’t like closed doors (which, by the way is also annoying when your trying to either go to the bathroom or get it on) and b: don’t like my attention to be on anything other than them.

So, what can be done in this situation?  I don’t want to yell at my kids to get out.  I don’t want to be somewhere else so I can write.  You never really know when you’re absolutely needed.  Waiting until they’re both asleep isn’t really an option because I’m pretty tired by then too.  For the past two weeks, it’s been a problem because I just don’t have the strength to tell them to get the fuck out and leave me alone (but in a nicer way).   I don’t even want to have that kind of strength.

So, last Thursday I tried something that might have worked.  I sat down with Spawn #1 and we had a talk about books.  She loves books.  I love books.  Let’s take a look about how many pages there are in this book here.

“It’s a lot,” she said.

“Yeah, a lot.  How long do you think it took for someone to write that?”

“I don’t know.”

“What, like a day?”

“No, like a hundred days. A hundred hundred.”

“Probably…  So, did you know that Daddy wants to write books too?”

“No.”

“I do.  Like you want to be in the FBI.”

“I want to draw pictured now.”

“You don’t want to be in the FBI anymore?”

“I want to do both.”

“Ok, you can probably do that.  But, I want to write books.  But if I want to do that for a job, then I have to do it for free first.”

“Why?”

“That’s just the way it works.  Usually the very best jobs, you have to do them for free for a long time before people will pay you for them.”

“Why?”

“I don’t know…I wish you didn’t, but that’s just the way it is….  So, when that door is shut, do you think you could let daddy work?”

It totally didn’t work.  She couldn’t give a damn about my hopes and dreams.  All she knew is that she didn’t get to see her daddy all day long, and then I come home and tell her to leave me alone while I shut myself up in a room and ignore her?  She didn’t actually say “Fuck that,” but I could tell she thought it and I don’t really blame her.

However, one thing she hates more than me wanting to spend time at home writing is me going to work every day.  So, I thought I’d try, “Hey, sweety, you know how you don’t like me having to work?”

“Yeah.”

“Well, one great thing about writing is that you can do it from home.  In fact, you can do it from ANYWHERE.  So, if I am lucky and can become a real writer, I can be home all the time.  And we can live anywhere, like back in America, or back in Taiwan.”

“Near Grandma?”

“Yeah, near Grandma.”

And that was it.  She was out of the room ten seconds later, with the door shut behind her.  And the only sound I heard for the rest of the night was Spawn#2 knocking, followed quickly by Spawn #1 coming over and telling her that she had to stay away from the door.

So…the key to some privacy at home?  The hope of moving near Grandma….  I don’t know how I feel about that exactly, and I doubt it will last long, but I’ll take it for now.

In reading news, according to my Kindle, I’m 29% though with The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.  I’ll give a full review when I’m at 100%, but the preview of my review: I’m liking it.

Published in: on August 1, 2011 at 10:32 am  Comments (2)  
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