Log in


June 8th, 2013

Two in the pot @ 04:29 pm

It's been a while since I posted to this blog, but the powers that be suggest regular blogging will help develop an audience for the two, yes two books I have coming out this fall. In a burst of good fortune, PageSpring Press agreed to publish a collection of my short stories, Welcome to the Goat Rodeo, hot on the heels of my story "Smothered and Covered" appearing in the 2013 edition of Best American Mystery Stories. Then Bundoran Press bought my science fiction novel, I'll Meet You Yesterday for publication this fall as well.

So I have that going for me.

Finished Ann Patchett's The Magician's Assistant last night. The strengths of the novel are the same as those I've noted in previous work by her; wonderful characterization and and elegant, fluid writing style. In this one, the only weakness was in plotting. There wasn't much of an overall arc to drive the action, of which there wasn't a great deal. I'm not taken with dream sequences that advance the plot, either, and she depended on them to a great degree to bring characters back to like in order to answer some gnarly questions. Nonetheless, I'd give it four stars out of five for its intelligence and fascinating cast.

March 31st, 2009

BSG @ 08:18 am

Having watched and really enjoyed seasons 2-4 of Battlestar Galactica, I've gone back and watched the first season. Now I remember why I quit watching this show when it first ran. The character of Dr. Baltar is way too important and unpleasant. He acts profoundly stupid and insane, and the lack of recognition of this by other cast members is a false note that I couldn't buy. Tighe's wife Ellen is also way over the top in the first season. The quality of the show really improved after the first season, as Baltar took a back seat to other, more interesting character developments.

February 10th, 2009

No Country for Old Men @ 03:13 pm

I was so enamored of the film by the Coen Brothers that I read the novel from which it was taken, Cormac McCarthy's of the same name. I found the book curious, and not always in a good way. As McCarthy has aged he has adopted a highly deadpan, almost cartoonish style, a vast departure from the richness of novels like Sutree or Blood Meridian.
He has also, imho, grown in his ability to develop characters with great subtlty and vermissilitude. I was curious about how much of the breathtaking dialogue in the movie was taken directly from the book, and I was pleased to  see it was word for word. I also read the novel seeking more development of the character representing the inevitability of death, and found it. I also discovered that my take on the movie, that it was the Sheriff's story, was accurate.
I also found that I couldn't read the sheriff's monologue and dialogue without hearing Tommy Lee Jones' voice, and that was a very, very good thing. His performance, albeit not on stage all that much, was one of the best I've ever witnessed. Why the Academy chose to nominate the actor playing the villian, who had a not-too-tasking cartoonish role, is mystifying.
Read it, watch it.

December 21st, 2008

Better television @ 09:18 am

I'm taking advantage of a free two-week trial of Netflix so I can use the 'view instantly' feature. I've been working me way through the first couple of years of the Showtime series "Weeds", about a suburban housewife who starts a career as a pot dealer. I'm realizing that the top-notch drama/comedy has segued to the pay model. While the networks run reality crap, the cable networks are producing the good stuff. Now to figure out the cheapest way to get what I want and dump what I don't...

December 17th, 2008

Things Fall Apart @ 03:16 pm

I finished Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe, a narrative about Nigeria at the end of the 18th century. I wasn't as captivated by it as I'd expected; it was told very much from the point of view of the tribesman constrained primarily by custom, and so much of the book read like a anthropology study. It's easy to see how customs and societal boundaries work to the disservice of the members when looking at an alien culture.

December 1st, 2008

The Poisonwood Bible @ 11:52 am

I finished The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver last week, and came away disappointed. I thought the first three-quarters of the book were marvelous, with rich characters, a tight, escalating plot line, meaty topics and a fascinating setting. I  was particularly taken with her use of five separate narrators, and the way she gave them each a recognizable voice and individual motivations. If she had ended the novel at the end of the character arcs, this would have been among my all-time favorite novels.
Unfortunately, she chose instead to tack on a hundred pages more of lifeless and at time heavily didactic narrative. We follow the subsequent lives of the viewpoint characters via vignettes spread over forty years, while they act in accordance with the changes wrought by the character arc. While we followed the main characters as a family through the first three-quarters of the book and witnessed their changes within that structure, the last quarter follows them as detached characters, so we are not given enough to involve ourselves in the separate lives.
I'd still recommend reading it, but stopping at the Exodus section.

October 8th, 2008

Assassin @ 11:33 am

A very short piece, Assassin, appeared recently in Fiction At Work.

September 29th, 2008

Query time @ 01:32 pm

I've declared my novel "Memories of the Future" complete, at least for the time-being. Heinlein suggested 'No revisions except under editorial direction' and I've used that as an excuse to stop massaging it. I reached the point where I reversed in the afternoon changes made in the morning.
My plan is to send out a query a day until I find the proper agent or run out of agents to query. This is where e-mail submissions really help. The cost and time of snail mail submissions is a barrier to entry. Although I'll still query those agents who only accept mail queries, I'll favor those who accept e-mail.
Now, on to something new.

September 7th, 2008

The Sound and the Fury @ 02:05 pm

Yes, I know it seems perculiar to bloviate on Harry Potter and William Faulkner in back to back posts. "A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds" wrote Emerson. Maybe that applies, maybe not.

I should have read this novel in college, but I can see why I didn't. I think I only penetrated this book by working backwards, first reading writers who came out of the Faulknerian strain of fiction, particularly Cormac McCarthy. He trained me to read Faulkner.  And while I admit I didn't catch everything in the first and second sections, from Benji's POV, then Quentin's, I was able to tread water until the prose became more straightforward and things fell into place.

I found it a work of tremendous strength that occasionally lapsed into purple prose. Most of all, however, I found it a masterwork in fulsome characterization. He staked out new territory in fiction, developing character from their thoughts and dialogue without the aid of third party or omnicient description. This is the attribute I most value in Raymond Carver, whose writing I adore.

I also came away with a increased admiration for the reading public at the time of this publication. To recognize the genius within the dense, confusing first section is more than I would have expected.

The most interesting aspect of this book, beyond the style, was for me the relationship between the white and black cast members. I'll be interested in reading what critics took from Faulkner's exploration of race relations, and how that impression might have evolved since the time he was awarded the Nobel Prize.

Now I need to read more of his writing; I've read Light in August, Sanctuary, As I Lay Dying, and this. Next, I'm thinking Absalom, Absalom.

September 2nd, 2008

Why the Deathly Hallows sucks @ 09:06 pm

There. I've said it. Book seven of the Harry Potter series sucked.
1. Harry is an ingrate, allowing Hermoine to wait on him hand and foot for months while sleeping rough and fleeing the death eaters. A little thank you once in a while isn't too much to ask for.
2. Why the chapter after chapter of them wandering around England without any purpose or goal?
3. They just happen to camp next to a couple of goblins and old friends so they can overhear some plot-advancing info. You'd have to be a billionaire to get away with that coincidence.
4. The deadly hallows vs. seeking out little bits of he-who-I'm-so-tired-of-having-to-hypenate-around. I felt like I was watching a late-night commerical; "But wait- there's more!" plot devices to confuse the reader and require endless backstory.
5. The King's Cross scene. Let's stop right in the middle of the ultimate battle for a chat and a spot of tea, shall we? Now here's some information key to understanding the plot that I couldn't think of a better way to relate.

To give the author her due, I was taken with the way she gave Dumbledore human flaws, and enobled Snape while remaining true to his character. If I were workshopping this book, I would have probably said it was a great first draft.