Monday, June 8, 2015

Recent Reads I'd Recommend: Syndrome E

This post will contain spoilers.

Syndrome E is a psychological thriller/crime novel that revolves around one intense film and several mysteries.  Mystery one - five male bodies are found with brains and eyes missing.  Mystery two - an experimental film from the fifties is found that causes one man to go blind and is eventually linked to these murders, but no one knows who made the film, how they made it (lots of odd sequences including a bull stopping on a dime), or why.

What I didn't know going into the novel:
That this was the third novel featuring the same character: Franck Sharko.  I had a feeling a few chapters in that there were other books featuring this character BUT, neither my enjoyment nor comprehension were hindered by not having read the earlier novels.

What I liked:

I loved the description of the films (there end up being two).  Traditional movies are difficult enough to describe in word form, so to do a scene by scene retelling of an experimental film (think Meshes of the Afternoon or Un Chien Andalou) is quite the task.  The author mixed in the character's reactions, which helped, but it was really his ability to create full pictures with few words that impressed me.

All of the technical explanations were handled wonderfully.  I have always been a sucker for a story that can tell me how things work mechanically without boring me to tears (I'm looking at you hardcore science fiction).  This novel had the task of explaining film history, 1950's film technology and capabilities, the eye/brain relation, the definition of a psychopath, subliminal messages, different medical tests, and several police procedures.  I felt that all were deftly done and handled mostly in dialogue or character ruminations.

The story.  Damn!  I loved it up until the end.  I won't give it away here, but I had issues involving the killer's motive and their inability to make different choices or explore other options over a LONG span of time.  If you read the book, you will know exactly what I mean.  BUT, until then, I did love the story.  The murder mystery involves France, Canada, Egypt, Belgium and the USA.  MK Ultra, and Project Avocado are involved.  And even though the story is about the murder, the author never skimped on developing characters both big and small.  Every character had their likes and dislikes, their niches, and attitudes.  My favorite is the first person to die, an old man who falls from a ladder while trying to reach for a film.  He starts it all and we only get to know him post-mortem through the eyes of others, but he has a depth not afforded most victims, and his flaws and foibles are revealed slowly.

What I didn't like:

Two things.  One, the love story that developed between Sharcko and Lucie, the two cops working the case.  It just didn't seem necessary to the story and actually, for me, detracted from the plot.  Every time one of them would think lovey dovey thoughts about the other, I would just roll my eyes.  Yes, they are both flawed, lonely, isolated, damaged people but them falling in love just did nothing for me.  I would have thoroughly enjoyed a partnership based on respect and admiration, but that's just me.

The ending.  UGH.  Okay, SPOILER ALERT - the person who committed the murders was the little girl from the movie.  She was drugged and exposed to violence until she broke and became violent.  This is captured in the film and the hidden film within the film (a really cool part of the story).  The film was made under a doctor's supervision.  Then, the girl was adopted by the doctor and groomed to take over his research - having to deal with mind control and aggression.  However, in the 50+ years since her adoption and the death of her father, she never sought help, and states that she had no choice.  Her explanation at the end of the novel felt weak for such a strong, well crafted story.  I hated ending the story on a note of disappointment.  What a let down after an intense, well-written, well researched, gripping novel.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Beta Feedback

Great news!!!!  My beta readers have delivered feedback and it looks like the first book in the Sortilege Falls YA series is ready to go!  What does this mean?  Well, I'm going to make sure I have the rest of the series plotted out, fix my grammar mistakes in the manuscript, and then I have at least one publisher I'm going to query.  Based on their answer, I might try to query a few agents or I might leap into self-pubbing.  I'll have a few weeks to decide.

I also have a lot of books to write, three to be exact.  And those are just the ones for this series.  There's also my sci-fi series, two stand alone novels, two short stories, and a play I'm working on.  So it's not like I won't be busy.

But man, does it feel good to know you've completed a project.  I started this project three years ago!  I am as shocked as you are.  I really thought I'd been working on this for a year, but nope, three years have passed since I announced the idea.  To be fair, I wrote the rough drafts of several novels and plays in that time as well.  The rest of the series should take a fraction of the time (I friggin hope).

This is how excited I am.  Image by
What about you interwebs?  What exciting news do you have?

Monday, May 18, 2015

Update

UGH!

I used to keep a diary and for years I was fairly good about writing weekly entries.  Then I hit thirty and stop being that interested in myself.  I became much more interested in the world around me but had no need to write down all my observations, so I stopped journaling.

While this blog is nowhere near a confessional (you're welcome for that, trust me), I do feel that I've neglected it in recent months.  Unlike my journal, I actually feel tremendously guilty.  So what happened?  Well, I got tendonitis in my arms, which slowed me down a ton.  I've recently done a lot of physical therapy and the arms are good!  YAY!  But then I had to finish my first Sortilege Falls novel (mentioned on the blog before as the Grape Merriweather novel).  It's about 98% done, I'm just waiting on word from a few beta readers to make sure the ending works and then I start the process of publishing it.

SOOOOOOOOO, I should actually be able to blog again.  And not just these "I'm so sorry" posts.  Lame.  But actual posts.  I have a lot to tell you about the books I've read as well as the one I've just written.  Spoiler alert: I've discovered China Mieville and Jo Nesbo!

I'm going to try to post on Mondays, so I'll see you around blogosphere!

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Daniel Clausen

Hi All!  Yes, I've been gone for a very long time.  My apologies.  I took a job that I knew I shouldn't and got tendonitis in both arms on top of a lot of headaches.  The job is done with and my arms are healing so I am back to say hello and that I will post more often!  Today is just a couple of quick sentences to say hello and to tell you about a cool free ebook!


My writing buddy Daniel Clausen put out a free ebook: Reejecttion, you can download it at the link below:
http://issuu.com/danielclausen/docs/the_reejectts-7-23-2014/1

Here is a quick excerpt:


THE SCIENCE OF A PERFECT SUMMER

I made a checklist in my mind: a great girl, two good friends, great books, a magical view from a mountaintop, and a commitment to making every day magical. Sure we would never cure cancer or paint a masterpiece—our lives would be our masterpieces. We would live out the perfect summer together in perpetuity. It would be the profession that never got old.
We sat on the top of the mountain and admired the view, us, together, a community. I saw it all right there, and I thought about it in terms of the ingredients I had already experienced. There was that summer when I was thirteen playing basketball, dreaming of greatness. The dreaming being better than the greatness, I would live on the court for hours at a time. Afterwards, I made stories in my mind, casting myself as the hero. Then there would be bonfires at the beach and nights howling at the moon.
“There’s no way,” my friend objects. “We would run out of money.”
“We would work,” I answer back. “But not real jobs, just summer jobs. You know, we would work at like video stores and wait tables and that kind of thing.”
“There’s no way. We could never live off that kind of scratch.”
My beautiful dynamic dream girl comes to my defense. “Sure we could. We would pool our money to buy beer. We would develop better strategies for saving money, for making quick money, and for making our money last.”
“Yeah,” my more optimistic friend says. “We could spend lots of time just playing frisbee and hanging out on the mountain top together. It would be great. It would be better than great, it would be the best thing ever.”
A pause hangs in the air.
“Think about it,” my more optimistic friend continues. “The worst thing in life is having to hang around with dicks. Sure, we could get jobs with high salaries and fancy offices, but who’s going to guarantee that we’re going to like our coworkers or customers? What we have here is what economist would call a ‘comparative advantage’”.
‘“Comparative advantage’? What do you mean?” my other friend asks.
“Well, when countries trade, each country has a good or a service which they can export to other countries because they do it better than anyone else. They may lose something, but they gain because they can focus on their comparative advantage. Some countries have oil, others are good at making microchips, others potato chips.  People are the same: some have brains, some have money, good looks. If we were a country, well, we’d have a comparative advantage in coolness.”
“Yes,” I say coming to my optimistic friend’s aid. “That’s right. We have a comparative advantage in coolness.”
We would master it, perfect it, make it ours until it became our science. One last summer to end all summers.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Nearing the Finish Line

Exciting news!  I am nearly done with the first book in the Grape Merriweather series.  Whoot whoot!!!

Not quite as exciting, I have to punch up the beginning and overhaul the ending.  I've been getting feedback from Betas and so far, they all agree: the story is good and fast-paced, but there are a few bumps that need smoothing out.  I am super happy because the finish line is in sight, but I'm worried that I'll lose steam.  When I was a runner and used to race, I always slowed down once I saw the finish line.  Something about the end looming in the distance took the wind out of my sails.  I'm the same way with writing.

The novel will be done by the new year.  I might have to drink ridiculous amounts of yummy coffee and bribe myself to do it (I'm looking at you, iPhone6), but it will happen.  And then I get to start querying agents.  FUN!!!!

How about you guys?  Any exciting news to share?

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Announcement Time


I am incredibly happy to announce that my play, The Last Day, will be performed in Raleigh at Owl Tree Theater for the People in October of 2015.  It's been a long journey for this play to reach its first production.  I wrote it five years ago, roughly, and workshopped it with the DC Playwrights Forum.  The Last Day went on to win an Honorable Mention in the Ohio State University at Newark New Play Contest and it was the play that got me into the 2010 Kennedy Center Playwriting Intensive, a wonderful experience.  Several theaters considered producing the play, but no production was ever forthcoming.
This is not uncommon for me.  I've written three full length plays and several one acts and ten minute plays.  My plays have been considered at The Public Theater and Steppenwolf among others.  I was a finalist for the Eugene O'Neill National Playwrights Conference.  I've been a bridesmaid several times, but never a bride.  So, how did I finally land my first production?  It's kind of a funny story, to me at least.
All the world's a stage, until you want a play produced, then only proper theaters are a stage.  Image by
Let me reiterate, I spent YEARS submitting my plays, writing queries, occasionally filling out forms or writing essays on why I thought my play would fit in well at a certain theater (please don't get me started on that experience).  I cannot tell you how many submissions I've done.  I've garnered many staged readings from that process, but no productions.

Then I switched to fiction for a while and left theater behind for a bit.  Transitioning to fiction took all my attention as the style is so incredibly different from theater.  Then we moved to Raleigh and in an attempt to meet people, I took up improv.  I quickly moved from taking classes to performing.  Nothing big, nothing fancy, but I like improv and it turns out I'm pretty okay at it.  The artistic director for Owl Tree saw me perform at Comedyworx, my home club, and asked if I would like to do a monologue at a showcase they were having as a fundraiser.  Of course I would!  I'll skip the weeks where I was so nervous that I utterly regretted my decision and move on to how much fun the actual monologue shows were; so much fun in fact that I've since enlisted in acting classes.  I loved the experience.  I started to feel more confident as the run progressed.  After the third or fourth performance, once I'd loosened up a bit from a walking bundle of nerves, I asked the artistic director if he would mind reading a play I had written.  He said sure.  So I sent it to him.  A few weeks later, he emailed to ask if they could produce it.  So, after years of grinding out submissions, queries, and practically begging for an opportunity,  I got my first production by casually mentioning I was a playwright.  That is how the world works, and it is a funny funny place.
 

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Oh Dear, I've Been Gone A While

UGH.  Let's start with that word.  Life is good but I had a few spells of crap between May and now.  Through it all, however, I have been writing!  I am editing the hell out of the Grape Merriweather book and will be sending it off to Betas soon.  :)  I fear the notes, comments but know it will only make the book better.

I'm also knee deep in a play right now.  I'm on draft four and will be getting comments soon.  Is it dark?  Oh hells yeah.

Other than that, I have tons of projects on the backburner.  I still want to do a short story blog but am unsure of how much time I have to commit to it.  I have plans for another play, another stand alone book and a science fiction series.  What I don't have is infinite time and patience.

While we're at it, I'm amazed by writers that can write for ten hour stretches.  I can manage six before I am utterly exhausted.  How do you guys do it?

Okay, I know this was quick and sloppy (stopping myself from making an inappropriate joke here) but I just wanted to assure you that I haven't fallen off a cliff.  I am around, I am writing, and I will have something to offer soon, I hope!

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