Friday, July 25, 2014

Reader Friday: Does Writing Get Easier or Harder?


"It's the whole getting started thing for me. I forget how to write a book. The first ten thousand words are like digging fossils from rocks." – J. T. Ellison

Reactions?

Thursday, July 24, 2014

First Page Critique–Brooklyn Nights

Jordan Dane
@JordanDane


iStock_000002398839Small
Purchased image from iStock by Jordan Dane/Novel Shout Media



Now time for another edition of FIRST PAGE CRITS, brought to you by TKZ. One intrepid author. One daring submission. My two pennies worth on the flip side. Care to play along? Read the opening 400 words to a courageous author’s work and give constructive criticism. Now for your consideration – Brooklyn Nights.



Brooklyn Nights
Chapter 1

The room glowed green in rhythm with the flashing neon of Gerry’s Irish bar across the road and two stories down. Frank Daley, fully dressed and lying on his back on the cheap bed, put a period on the light show with the red tip of his Chesterfield.

The sounds and smells of the Brooklyn neighborhood floated through the open window, Antonio’s Pizza Pies blending with the odors of cigarettes, sweat, and sex that filled the fleabag he had rented for the month. It’d have to do. He’d lose his security deposit anyway, once he robbed the joint.

The whore beside him stunk of cheap whiskey, her snores a discord of nasal wheezes that drowned out conversations of the restaurant patrons below as they came and went to an irritating bell dangling above the door. He leaned over and pinched her nose until she opened her mouth to breathe. What came out overwhelmed all other aromas, pleasant or otherwise.

She was naked except for a pair of black lace panties and a gold strapless sandal on her left foot, the heel worn on one side. He had noticed it earlier on their walk up the staircase. There was no significance to the worn heel, but it represented something he knew that no one else did. It was one of his better qualities, a keen sense of observation. It had kept him alive and out of jail since the war.

Her breasts rose and fell with her breathing, the air once again escaping through the clogged nostrils. Between the bell over Antonio’s door and her nose music it sounded like a bad Salvation Army band.


Feedback:

Overview: Well, Frank is a piece of work. Charming man. I think I used to work with this guy, but I’d never admit it. It cracked me up that he thought about his lost security deposit considering he planned to rob the flea bag. Stellar ethics. I do love the cesspool details of this scene. All the senses are triggered and the imagery is here. Frank’s got an attitude with a hint of dark humor. I would definitely want to read more to get a sense of Frank and where this story will lead. There’s no indication that he is a main character. He could be a mood setter, secondary character. I’ve opened more than a book or two with fun secondary characters who pave the way for my protagonist to make an entrance. For me, there needs to be more to Frank than what I’m reading here to carry my interest through a whole book of him, but I like the edgy writing style.



Suggestion 1: There appears to be much more to this story, considering Frank is fully dressed and waiting for something. That leads me to suggest a better, more gripping first line that would pull the reader into the mystery of Frank.  



Example: Like most people, Frank Daley had ambitions for a better life—money, a sweet ride, and respect—but the drunk hooker lying next to him, snoring and wheezing like a busted radiator, had become his upside.


I'm sure the author could come up with a better line, knowing the story, but this is an example of a first line focused on Frank.



Suggestion 2: The scene is set and the senses are triggered, but another way to begin this would be to focus on Frank more than setting the stage. Make the hooker and the cheap digs be the backdrop for what’s going through his mind and lure the reader in with his story. With only a scant 400 words, it’s hard to know what to suggest, but my instincts tell me there is more to Frank, even if he’s a secondary character. The hooker, the Irish bar, and the pizza joint are colorful, but I’m thinking they’re only window dressing for what’s about to play out with Frank. A better way to show Frank has keen observation is to show it, rather than tell it through the hooker’s sandal. Have Frank sitting in the dark and listening, smelling, sensing everything both in the room and outside on the street, as if he were a predatory animal. Again, the focus should be on him and not the room or the hooker or the street outside.



Suggestion 3: To introduce Frank to the reader, the author might have him do more in this opening scene. Have him interacting with another character in dialogue or in a conflict to see how he handles it. Encapsulate his personality in a defining scene that will show the reader what he’s all about. Creating a scene like this, it would be the difference between Johnny Depp making an entrance in Pirates of the Caribbean. You wouldn’t write him sitting in the dark, waiting. You’d make him come alive and do something, whether his character is intended to be funny or deadly serious. Maybe have him get up from the hooker, dress, then go down and rob the motel – but before he leaves the dump, he asks, “I guess this means I don’t get my deposit back?”


Suggestion 4: I had to reread the following two sentences. They were too long. They'd be more effective broken up.


Before: The sounds and smells of the Brooklyn neighborhood floated through the open window, Antonio’s Pizza Pies blending with the odors of cigarettes, sweat, and sex that filled the fleabag he had rented for the month.


After: The sounds and smells of the Brooklyn neighborhood floated through the open window. The aroma of Antonio’s Pizza Pies blended with the odors of cigarettes, sweat, and sex that filled the fleabag he had rented for the month.


Before: The whore beside him stunk of cheap whiskey, her snores a discord of nasal wheezes that drowned out conversations of the restaurant patrons below as they came and went to an irritating bell dangling above the door.


After: The whore beside him stunk of cheap whiskey. Her snores were a discord of nasal wheezes. The noise coming from the drunk hooker drowned out the conversations of restaurant patrons as they walked under an irritating bell that dangled above the door.



Summary: This author has an engaging style that I like. The writing basics are here, but the right scene selection, an intriguing first line, setting up a conflict or an evocative escalating situation that will keep the reader turning the page, is the challenge with every book.



What say you, TKZers? Please share your comments on Brooklyn Nights.



Wednesday, July 23, 2014

The Top Five Greatest Prison Breaks in novels

Today I welcome back to TKZ, guest blogger J.H. Bogran. José is a fellow ITW member and also serves as ITW’s Thriller Roundtable Coordinator and a contributing editor to The Big Thrill. Enjoy his list of greatest prison breaks in novels.

Joe Moore

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By J. H. Bográn

As a thriller fan, the genre has rewarded me with plenty tall tales of threats that could destroy the entire world. I’ve lived through jh_4byw1bomb countdowns, assassins catching up with their marks, renegade terrorist factions on the verge of breaking hell loose on earth, among others scenarios.

But one of the more thrilling rides is when characters break out of prisons, some may even call them educational.

The following list is my top five of the greatest escapes found in books. At a later time I will make the equivalent list for movies, but for now, let’s concentrate on actions that can be found between bookends.

Number Five:

Let’s begin with a classic: The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas. Edmund Dantés is wrongfully accused and sent to prison in the island of Château d'If. After a few years of solitary confinement, he meets a priest and they both agree to work on a tunnel as means to their ultimate salvation.

This story is not only notorious for the great escape of Dantés when he replaces the corpse of his mentor, but after the dust settles, you begin to wonder if all those years excavating the tunnel were a waste of time because—let’s face it—he didn’t escape through the tunnel now, did he?

Number Four:

In the world of prison breaks, no man can match the trick pulled by Sirius Black in J.K. Rowling’s third Harry Potter book, The Prisoner of Azkaban. And I mean it literally, for the title actually refers to him. (Am I the only one who at the end of Book 2 thought that the prisoner of Azkaban was the recently released Hagrid?)

Although the POV is always on Harry, we learn of Sirius’ ordeal from his own retelling of the tale.

After being incarcerated for over thirteen years, he simply transformed into a dog and squeezed through the cell bars, not even the demon guards could detect him. Now, that’s a shaggy escape. It sure does pay to be an unregistered animagi.

Number Three:

Even after twenty years of its publication, Thomas Harris’ Silence of the Lamb remains a fixture in any top-ten list of suspense novels. A must-read which movie version grabbed the five most coveted Oscars (Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Director, Best Adapted Script and Best Picture).

Okay, the level of gruesomeness of this one may perhaps be in league with Master Stephen King’s, but the inventiveness alone is remarkable enough to snatch the number #3 position.

Using nothing but discarded—or rather stolen—office supplies, Hannibal Lecter picked his handcuffs. Then after a quick change of wardrobe he put on a face that allowed him to pass through the guards outside and end up in a low-security ambulance. The rest was easy.

Number Two:

This one is similar to number five, but with a darker twist. Otherwise it wouldn’t be a Stephen King story. Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption was a novella included in the collection Different Seasons.

It took Andy Dufrasne all of twenty seven years to dig a tunnel. Not too bad considering he went through two small rock hammer, and many lovely girl posters, in the process. The final leg of his trip out of Shawshank prison was through a sewerage pipe, as he crawled amidst the worst of human’s excrement. However, at this point I better come clean and say there was no pun intended when this escape artist landed on number two.

Number One:

Let’s go biblical, Acts of the Apostles.

Before people start emailing me that this book is not a work of fiction, but a true account, I admit that I agree, but Peter’s escape is so awesome I had to include it!

This divine intervention, the epitome of Deus ex machina, can be found in Acts 12: 1-11.

Peter was not only left in the deepest meanest cell with two guards by his side, he was also bound by chains. Then an angel materialized, freed Peter of his bound and led him the way out, walking through walls, no less.

Do you agree with my list? I can expand it to a Top-Ten list, so do send me your suggestions.

Oh, and thanks Joe for letting me hog the spotlight in TKZ today.

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J. H. Bográn, born and raised in Honduras, is the son of a journalist. He ironically prefers to write fiction rather than fact. José’s genre of choice is thrillers, but he likes to throw in a twist of romance into the mix. His works include novels and short stories in both English and Spanish.

His debut novel TREASURE HUNT, which The Celebrity Café hails as an intriguing novel that provides interesting insight of architecture and the life of a fictional thief, has also been selected as the Top Ten in Preditors & Editor’s Reader Poll.

Firefall_Proof2FIREFALL, his second novel, was released in 2013 by Rebel ePublishers. Coffee Time Romance calls it “a taut, compelling mystery with a complex, well-drawn main character.”

He’s a member of The Crime Writers Association, the Short Fiction Writers Guild and the International Thriller Writers where he also serves as the Thriller Roundtable Coordinator and contributor editor their official e-zine The Big Thrill.

Website at: www.jhbogran.com

Facebook profile: www.facebook.com/jhbogran

Twitter: @JHBogran

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Postscript on Thrillerfest

Thrillerfest manages to keep getting better, year after year. I did the whole shebang this year--the FBI workshop, MasterCraft,
John Sandford before his talk at Craftfest
CraftFest, and the conference. It was a treat participating in the inaugural session of MasterCraft. My group worked with the fabulous D.P. Lyle, who facilitated an intensive critique of the attendees' first ten pages.
Panel: Writers' quirks and superstitions

On Saturday I took part in a panel hosted by Brad Parks. Our topic was writers' quirks and superstitions. We had fun with the theme, and even got a bit rowdy at times. (I seem to be preparing to make a snarky riposte in the photo!)

A little later, I was interviewed by Jessica Mazo for MartiniProductionsNYC for their Author's Chair sequence.

Now I'm back, and already looking forward to Bouchercon, which will be in my neck of the woods this year. Will you be attending Bouchercon? And who did I miss seeing at Thrillerfest? I couldn't reset my west coast bio-clock and consequently faded early, so I didn't hang out at the bar gatherings as much as usual this year!
The hypnagogic Hyatt lobby face

Monday, July 21, 2014

London Calling

by Clare Langley-Hawthorne


I'm on vacation this week in my favourite city - London. It's a place I love to visit and also a great place to get some research done:) 

I will have only sporadic Internet access but will report back when I return. 

In the meantime, I'd love it if you'd share the 'dream' city you want to visit to do research for your current (or future) WIP. Mine is St. Petersburg - one day I hope to visit and maybe even ride the Trans-Siberian railway...hey, a girl can dream!



Sunday, July 20, 2014

The Thrill Is On


Robert Benchley, the famous wit and charter member of the Algonquin Round Table, attended a Broadway premiere in 1926. The play was The Squall and took place in the South Seas. But the dialogue, especially the island dialect, was abysmal. At one point during the first act a native girl ran onstage and threw herself at the feet of a man, and cried, "Me Nubi. Nubi good girl. Me stay."

Benchley could take no more. He stood up and said aloud, "Me Bobby. Bobby bad boy. Me go." And he left the theater.

Which brings me to the thriller. What is the secret? It's writing something that gets the exact opposite reaction as Mr. Benchley's. It is a full-on, grab-you-by-the-shirt experience that doesn't let up until the end.

Not an easy thing to do. Not always an easy thing to find.

But what if you could find 8 of them? In one place? For less than a buck?


It's my great pleasure to announce this astounding deal for thriller fans. Thrill Ride: 8 Pulse-Pounding Novels is a "boxed set" of reading pleasure from tested veterans of the thrill.

And yes, for only 99¢ you get the following full-length thrillers:

Blind Justice  by James Scott Bell
Sidetracked by Brandilyn Collins
Double Vision by Randy Ingermanson
The Blade by Lynn Sholes and Joe Moore
The Roswell Conspiracy by Boyd Morrison
The Killing Rain by P.J. Parrish
Desecration by J. F. Penn
The Call by Kat Covelle

New York Times bestselling author Steve Berry wrote the introduction. It begins, "There’s a maxim in this business: a thriller must thrill. The story must make the pulse quicken, the eyes widen, the fingers continually turning pages. At the end of each chapter the only thought the reader should have is ‘I need to read just a little more.’ "

That's the kind of book you're going to find in this collection.

Some of you may already own one or two of these titles. Well, it's still a great deal, wouldn't you say? And that's the point: all of the authors here are into giving you, the reader, a great set at an amazing price.

It's a venture in cooperative marketing. That's what's so amazing about the ebook boom. We can do things like this, and it's the consumer who reaps the benefits. I'm on record as saying it's the best time on earth to be a writer. Well, let's add to that: it's the best time on earth to be a reader, too.

About the authors:

Joe, P.J. and I camp out right here on TKZ. Lynn, of course, is Joe's partner in thrills.

Boyd and Kat (pen name of Kathleen Pickering) are TKZ alums.

J. F. Penn is one of indie publishing's mega-stars.

Brandilyn and Randy are good friends of mine, award-winning writers who have proven their thriller bona fides over and over.

And now here we all are, together, for you––the fans of thrilling fiction.

I hope you'll pop over and buy a copy today. And let us hear from you, especially if we've kept you from sleeping...

Here are the links:







From all of the Thrill Ride authors, thank you for your wonderful support!

Saturday, July 19, 2014

The Eternal Fire...I Mean, Kindle Unlimited


The rumors started earlier this week, but it became official on Friday morning: Amazon’s home page trumpeted something new called “Kindle Unlimited.” It’s the Kindle version of Oyster and Scribd, or the book version of Netflix and Hulu Plus.  Kindle Unlimited is simple for the readers: pay $9.99 per month, and one can select from “over 600,000 books” (more on that in a minute) and thousands of audio books (not so much about that in a minute) as many times per month as one wishes. Are you one of those readers who like to have two or more books going at once? Step right up, my friend; you can have up to ten books at once from Kindle Unlimited on your reader and for as long as you want (so long as you keep forking over that $9.99 per month, of course). Finish a book, and you return it with a click or two and pick another book of you want, or finish up what you have and then select away again.  Do you read a book a day? Two books a day? Help yourself. The first month is free, and yes, I joined. Amazon makes it easy (is that a surprise?). Click on the sign up button, log into your account, and all of a sudden every book that is part of the Kindle Unlimited plan has a red button next to it that 1) indicates that it is part of the Kindle Unlimited plan and 2) announces that it can be read for free.

I was pleased to see that every book that Hachette has ever published is included in Kindle Unlimited. Just kidding, of course; THAT woke you up, didn’t it? Actually, none of the big five traditional publishers are represented on Kindle Unlimited. All of the Kindle imprints are present, as one might expect, and Open Road Media (mysteriouspress.com, anyone?), HMH, Algonquin, and Bloomsbury are there, as are authors’ works which are exclusive to Amazon. I also found a goodly portion of T. Jefferson Parker backlist to be part of it, and, if you are so inclined, The Hunger Games series, The Lord of the Rings trilogy, Seven Habits…you get the idea. You know that business dispute between Hachette and Amazon? I am sure  that the participation of Hachette (and, down the road, the other major publishers) is an important element of it.

There is also an audiobook component to Kindle Unlimited through audible.com but at this point anecdotal reports indicate that there are only two thousand titles or so are included in Kindle Unlimited. This number will undoubtedly increase.  Further, if you borrow an eBook that has an audiobook version which is part of the program, the audiobook is included automatically. And, of course, there is also the whisper sync feature included with many books. So there is plenty for everyone.

Kindle Unlimited is not Amazon Prime. There’s no long-term commitment with Kindle Unlimited; it’s for books only; and if you are already an Amazon Prime member, Amazon apparently is not folding Kindle Unlimited into your Prime membership. The only elements both programs have in common are 1) uh, Amazon and 2) borrowing books. With regard to the latter, Prime lets you read a book per month for free and lend books you’ve purchased; Kindle Unlimited is, well, unlimited; but you can’t lend other books you’ve purchased.

There is an additional consideration, of course, for the authors among us: how are the royalties for those authors whose works are included in Kindle Unlimited get paid? I did some searching for the answer, and even made a few telephone calls. Responses ranged from “Amazon isn’t releasing that information” to “I don’t know.” One source told me that for an independent author to receive royalties the “borrower” has to read at least ten per cent (10%) of the book (and yes, as an aside, it kind of creeps me out that Amazon would have a way of knowing how much of a particular book I have, or haven’t read). Once the author has accomplished that threshold through the reader, royalties are calculated along the lines of an equation which looks something like 5(x)+3(y)-42+(-7)=zippideedoodah. To put it another way, no one who is talking is really sure at this point. Authors who are free to do so might want to seek further information before committing, which of course is a good idea before entering into any contract, agreement or commitment.

There will be more --- much more --- to be said about Kindle Unlimited in the coming weeks and months. For the moment, however…are you interested? Did you sign up for a free trial? Have you given it a test run? And what would you like to see? I’ve already answered all of the questions but the last. I’d like to be able to borrow…graphic novels. I think that will happen when we land a man on the sun, but I’ve been surprised, pleasantly and otherwise, before. One can always hope.