Wake of the Perdido Star is one Great Rip Roaring Adventure.
July 27 2017 - This fast paced historical novel by Gene Hackman and Daniel Lenihan takes us to the early eighteen hundreds United States where we meet seventeen year old Jack O'Reilly. Jack, the son of an Irish father and a Cuban mother, witnesses the murder of his parents when he accompanies them to Cuba to reclaim his mother's inheritance.
Barely surviving the murderous assault with his own life, Jack escapes to stow away on the Perdido Star, and begins a seafaring adventure filled with villains, storms, shipwreck, piracy, and some truly marvelous descriptions of nineteenth century deep sea diving technology.
Jack's search for revenge is the driving force in his year and a half long voyage. But his growing maturity and wisdom is the saving grace of this often violent, but always fascinating page turner of a yarn.
What first caught my attention about this book was one of the authors, Gene Hackman. Yes, that Gene Hackman, the Academy nominated actor from The French Connection.
But what kept me reading was the spot on description of the people and their times, plus the fascinating descriptions of how early eighteen hundreds seamen performed underwater salvage, exploration, and even warfare.
This story is one I'll definitely remember.
The Uber Life: Afternoon of the Iguana
July 05 2017 - My wife enjoys driving for Uber. Yesterday afternoon she got a ping for an Uber-XL ride. Normally XL means a group of six. Last night, it meant cargo. When she arrived at the pickup point outside a PetSmart, a harried looking man asked her, "Can you transport a four foot long tank?"
"Yes," my wife cautiously replied.
So she lowers the rear seat and together she and the guy get the glass tank into the cargo area.
At this point a woman shows up holding a leash. The woman is extremely pregnant. The tiny animal at the end of the leash curls up on the sidewalk.
On close inspection it turns out to be a lizard.
Just to be sure, my wife asks, "Is that an iguana?"
"Yes," is the reply, and the woman then clasps her beloved iguana to her bosom.
So my wife drove the pregnant woman, the guy, the iguana, and the four foot long tank to an apartment building. The woman cuddled her iguana the entire way. At the apartment, my wife helped the guy carry the tank into the apartment building's foyer. It was devoid of any elevator. When my wife left, she wondered how the threesome was going to get the unwieldy tank up the stairs.
But that's how it is when you drive for Uber. Sometimes you have to leave without knowing how the story ends. Never mind how it began. But for one brief moment you were part of the story. And that is why my wife enjoys driving for Uber.
Review: The romantics by Leah Konen
July 02 2017 - What the Book Thief does for the character of Death, so the Romantics by Leah Komen does for Love, who comes to life as the narrator of this tale of love in its many forms.
This version of Love is not Cupid. He has no cute little wings. He has no bow and arrow, but he does tweak the circumstances now and then. When he can. When the situation is just right. While still allowing free will, of course.
Love's current problem is that Gael, a boy in high school, is pursuing the wrong girl. All the while ignoring the right girl, who is right under his nose.
And of course, Love is bound and determined to correct this situation. Because that's his job. If only pesky things such as free will would stop getting in the way. And if Gael would only stop making all the wrong decisions. There is only so much a minor deity can do.
But Gael can be forgiven for his lack of cooperation. From his point of view, his whole life is crashing and burning around him. His parents have separated. He sees his father with a younger woman, his kid sister refuses to believe their parents won't get back together, and his best friend has stolen his girlfriend.
But Love, with plenty of snark and self congratulation for his own cleverness, finds a way.
This is a fun read, with every character true to life and well drawn. It is one of those journeys where the trip is more important than the destination. Despite the small fantasy element Love's presence adds, the story is real and believable. Anyone who likes a good story will enjoy this book.
How Critique Groups Really Help
June 14 2017 - Every Monday I read a chapter to my critique group, then hold my breath and wait. Very occasionally there is a long, thoughtful silence that tells me I've written a real clunker. But that's the whole point of the group. At least the clunkers are becoming fewer.
It took me a while to learn how to really use a critique group. One of the best words to listen for when we are discussing a chapter is "confused." When someone says they are confused about something, that's code for you really screwed up a description, a character's actions, or something else which sits in the center of the story like a boulder in a flowing stream, causing turmoil and chaos. With perfect hindsight I can always see the problem once it is pointed out to me.
Another useful term the group likes to use is "beats." Too many beats in a dialogue means they are talking far too much. Or too many beats in an action scene means it is slowing down the pacing.
The good thing about all of this is that after a while, I've learned how to recognize these problems on my own.
At least some of the time.
Not that the group stops finding problems to point out to me, but at least they are growing smaller and more finicky. Our group calls these little tweaky things. If my chapter's only flaws are little tweaky things, I'm happy.
My writing process
May 31 2017 - If there's one thing I've learned since starting to write seriously, it's that every single writer has his or her own method for writing a story.
We call this "the process." And yes, you can practically hear the quotes when we say it. But there is a good reason for this reverential attitude. The process is what gets us from the point of a half formed inspiration to the completed manuscript.
A writing process can be anything from constructing highly detailed outlines including notebooks filled with multi-colored index cards, to simply typing your thoughts as they come and heavily editing and revising them later.
My own process falls somewhere in between these extremes. I always start out with an intriguing idea. For example, in Iceteroid ©, my idea was to have a family live in the asteroid belt, and work as ice miners who sell their ice asteroids to the Lunar colonies. Next I think up a few characters. Finally I conceive a general plot. And when I say general, I mean little more than the back cover blurb plus an ending. It isn't even a synopsis at this point. Just the bare bones of what the characters have to overcome, and where they will end up.
And now I'm ready to write. Almost. First I write a summary of my first chapter. This summary is usually only three or four sentences long.
Finally, I write my first chapter. Whew. It took a while, but we finally got there. I repeat this process for the next several chapters, until I reach the middle of my story. at this point I write an outline for the rest of the story. It is all well and good to only look ahead one chapter at a time during the first half, but if I don't figure out how I'm going to end it, I could be stuck in the middle of the story forever. I need that final half outline as a sort of guidepost to keep me on track.
How well does this process work? For me, very well. I've written five novels, three of which were selected as Tassy Walden award finalists. At the moment I'm working on my sixth novel, REENTRY.
Will this process work for you? Probably not, since every writer I know has their own unique, and well loved process. But we do like to talk about them.
May 24, 2017 - If you found your way here, there is a better than even chance you like stories. Especially stories for middle grade and young adult readers.
Feel free to read the first chapters of my current and previous projects.
The six kids in the first Students in Space project are marooned aboard the new International Space Station after it is damaged by a terrorist strike. Now they must scramble to survive until NASA sends a rescue mission, or die trying.
A girl fearing to let people know she can talk to ghosts is kidnapped from a government research facility by a rogue scientist. He transfers her mind into a cat's body and forces her to spy on his competitors. Now she has to overcome his schemes or never regain her own body again.
A lonely teenage boy struggles to overcome the perils of the Mojave desert, and the suspicion of three genetically enhanced children, in order to rescue them from unscrupulous scientists.
UPGRADES was a Finalist in the 2016 Tassy Walden Awards for New Voices in Children's Literature, sponsored by Connecticut's Shoreline Arts Alliance.
EYES OF THE BEHOLDER
A blind boy given vision by a puppy he rescues from the side of the road is forced to escape a kidnapper in order to save both himself and his very special dog.
EYES OF THE BEHOLDER was a Finalist in the 2015 Tassy Walden Awards for New Voices in Children's Literature, sponsored by Connecticut's Shoreline Arts Alliance.
The Trans-Atlantic Causeway project was supposed to be the dream summer internship for four teenage friends. But that was before they stumble into sabotage, murder and espionage.
CAUSEWAY was a Finalist in the 2014 Tassy Walden Awards for New Voices in Children's Literature, sponsored by Connecticut's Shoreline Arts Alliance.
A teenage boy living in the asteroid belt fights to prevent a ruthless corporation from destroying his father's giant ice asteroid, to save his family, friends, and the entire belter community.