Kill Switch is authored by two heavy hitters in the television industry: Neal Baer, former executive producer and showrunner of NBC’s Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, executive producer of ER (“the longest-running primetime medical drama in American television history”), multi-award winner (Emmy, Golden Globe, People’s Choice, and Edgar), and graduate of Harvard Medical School; and Jonathan Greene, writer and co-executive producer of Law & Order: SVU and now writer/co-executive producer for CBS’s A Gifted Man (starring Patrick Wilson of Little Children fame). Phew! So many credentials, so little space. These two men are clearly accomplished in their fields—they have nothing to prove to anyone.
Except me. And that is because I am a consumer of books, and they have crossed into my territory, away from the television screen, away from the tidy conundrums presented to their characters who have 44 minutes or less to tie things up. Books are a different world than TV.
Baer and Greene know how to weave a good story, to start fires, let them burn for a while, and then summarily extinguish said fires within the confines of 289 pages. The characters they’ve built—Dr. Claire Waters, NYPD detective Nick Lawler, resident bad guy Todd Quimby—these folks are believable. I read the book over a few hours, which says a lot to the facility of language. It is writing for Every Man. You won’t have to pull out your dictionary or take huge leaps of faith to understand what is going on in the novel. This is a standard police procedural where the cops are gritty, the bad guys are heinous, and the good guy always gets his man. Baer and Greene, for all their impressive credentials, aren’t quite Walter Mosley, a man who spins crime noir into a ballet for the senses, but I don’t feel robbed of the time I spent reading the story, either.
I don't ordinarily read sci-fi but this was sent to me for review via Best Damn Creative Writing Blog and the lovely folks at Tor. (Thanks, Lovely Fol...moreI don't ordinarily read sci-fi but this was sent to me for review via Best Damn Creative Writing Blog and the lovely folks at Tor. (Thanks, Lovely Folks!) The title aside--it's hard to take a book seriously when the name "fuzzy" is in the title, but maybe that's just me--author Scalzi has a quick wit and a comfortable conversational tone. Though Fuzzy Nation is a reboot of H. Beam Piper's 1962 tale Little Fuzzy, Scalzi has made this authorized reworking his own. I found the latter parts of the book to read a little heavy in terms of courtroom procedure, but the world-building was gentle and I wasn't burdened by the confusion that typically scares me away from this genre; I can never keep all the creatures or worlds straight. Not a problem with this tale, even if the action doesn't take place on Earth. Fun read. Worth a go, especially if you have a soft spot for environmental protectionism and fuzzys. A full review will be posted at Best Damn Creative Writing Blog in the coming days!(less)
Fantastic breakneck pace that will leave the reader breathless, by page nine. At just under 200 pages, it doesn't take long to get through RUN, but ev...moreFantastic breakneck pace that will leave the reader breathless, by page nine. At just under 200 pages, it doesn't take long to get through RUN, but every single page is an eternity in itself--in the BEST way--because there is NO WAY the characters are going to escape this time. Highly recommend. Look for a more detailed review on Best Damn Creative Writing Blog. And then BUY THIS BOOK.(less)
FONDLING YOUR MUSE by John Warner Writer’s Digest Books ISBN: 1582973482 ASIN: B0045EPDD6 2011 update: available on Amazon (n...more~Reprint from February 2007~
FONDLING YOUR MUSE by John Warner Writer’s Digest Books ISBN: 1582973482 ASIN: B0045EPDD6 2011 update: available on Amazon (not an e-book at this time)
If the title does intrigue you to at least pick up John Warner’s bestselling tome on writing advice, then you are either: (1) sufficiently satisfied with your full-time job as a meter reader, saving your writing “hobby” for evenings in front of “Home Improvement” reruns; or (2) you are so completely and sickeningly content with not only your burgeoning writing career that you are impermeable to so-called “advice” from someone who doesn’t write in your chosen genre but also you must get enough action in the bedroom to resist any book that has the word “fondling” in its title.
Before you sit down with Fondling Your Muse, turn off Tim the Tool-Man Taylor and move your stuffed animals off the couch so they avoid being showered with the grains of salt you will toss about wildly while tearing through the animated, hysterical diatribe. Warner, an award-winning editor of McSweeney’s Internet Tendencies (and chum of a number of disgustingly accomplished young, impish writers) is side-splitting. Resist the temptation to read aloud passages to that disheveled, pierced teenager sitting next to you in the bus shelter. He can’t hear you, anyway—Incubus is screaming from the headphones of his iPod, rendering him devoid of understanding spoken English for at least another day.
The self-effacing humorist misses no opportunity to make fun of writers, the pursuit of the elusive and most certainly idyllic “writer’s life,” or the dreamy chase of the advance money you will undoubtedly get for your first 120,000-word attempt at entering the Kingdom of Novelhood. Warner pulls no punches as he goads us across the punishing battlefield known as publishing.
Muse covers the importance of MFAs and killer queries, overcoming writer’s block and writing hotter sex scenes. If it’s hard advice you seek, pay special attention to the “Motivation Moments”— that is, of course, after you dab your tears from that last giggle fit. Writers, for reasons as personal as our choice in lacy undergarments, spend millions of dollars annually on books that will dish up that one pearl of advice that will deliver our manuscripts into the anxious and grateful hands of parched editors desperate to quench their thirst on the genius of our double-spaced, properly formatted pages. Warner recognizes this and, the bastard, has capitalized on our insecurities. There’s a reason why his book (published by Writer’s Digest Books, a company that has made gazillions on this premise of writerly self-inferiority) has sold so well. He doesn’t have the Holy Grail enshrined in his swanky, professionally decorated home office, from which he can summon the Secrets of Success; he just happens to possess an uncanny ability to divine COMMON SENSE from the mayhem of the struggle for literary supremacy. You know what he’s saying — you know it like you know your own mother’s distinct Tova Borgnine-inspired scent. If you want to write a bestseller — if you want to get anything published, for that matter — you have to W-R-I-T-E. No more “Home Improvement.” Get rid of those stuffed animals (they’re draining your chakras and exacerbating your allergies, anyway). No more paychecks blown on writing advice books or book doctors who only take you away from what you KNOW you should be doing.
If you’re looking to Fondling for bona fide advice on how to get published, hang onto your milk money. If you’re looking for edgy, no-holds-barred commentary on how seriously we scribish slaves tend to take ourselves, buy it, read it, read it a second time to satisfy your itch to scribble notes in the margin and use your new set of highlighters, and then support this goofball’s well-earned success by ordering copies for your writers’ group comrades from Amazon. Just don’t be surprised if Warner shows up on your porch on his knees, groveling to your Greatness and showering you with rose petals in gratitude for upping his Amazon rankings. (Trust me-—he’s watching.)
Post script: Apologies for the italics. Something happened in the cut/paste from Word into this template, and I can't find it. No random HTML tags that I can find. Whatever. Content's still good, right? ~jsy(less)
SIN AND SYNTAX: How to Craft Wickedly Effective Prose by Constance Hale Pub. Broadway ISBN 0767903099 / 978-0767903097 2011 update: available for Kindle
There are three absolutes for the reading writer upon his/her decision to ingest Constance Hale’s Sin and Syntax:
(1) Buy your own copy. Do not borrow the library’s edition, my friend, because you will not be able to resist the urge to dog-ear, highlight, scribble, or underline the imperatives dished out as canapés before the brandy. Wordsmiths rejoice and pedants repent, Hale lays out the rules and then rips wheelies all over them.
(2) Read through the book once, allowing your pen to merely fondle the text, consenting to only sporadic gratification with the occasional “*” or “!” Savor the book. Force yourself to pay attention. Don’t be scared or intimidated by Hale’s genius. (Thank heavens there is SOMEONE who understands direct objects, participles, dangling whatzits and thingamajigs). And don’t get caught up on the sentence diagramming stuff or else you might scurry away in terror, leaving your poor pen unfulfilled and frustrated.
(3) Read through a second time and take as many notes as possible before writer’s cramp tangles your fingers. Your pen will bask in the afterglow and might even buy you dinner.
Adroitly constructing her tower block by block, Hale pours the foundation in the sections she calls Bones (a bit of a remedial in grammar school tedium) and Flesh (explaining the connection between the grammar and the prose). But if you snooze, you lose. Hale quickly moves past the snore-a-thon “sermonettes” and dives headlong into the power tools you need to fortify your writing, progressing ever onward and upward to the higher stratum that will house the plumbing and ventilation systems of colorful, imaginative prose.
Hale is a stylistic seductress. The most delicious pieces of each chapter, Cardinal Sins and Carnal Pleasures (honestly, who could resist flipping past the teachy-preachy parts to sneak a peek into the book’s naughty bits?) give context to the earlier lessons by exploiting real world examples of bumbled goober-speak. One of Hale’s favorite targets is President Bush Sr., though she doesn’t discriminate—politicos, academics, and pompous “purple prose” authors are fair game. And once she demonstrates why, it becomes so obvious! Hale warns against treading in “The Danger Zone” the Stuffed Shirts seem to frequent, or you’re risking grammatically inept, slobbery writing—and that’ll do nuthin’ but make yuh sound dumb (or Texan).
But Hale doesn’t just make fun of stumbling speakers and ballooned blowhards. She regularly injects examples of Mark Twain’s spirited prose to illustrate her maxims, inducing a few ‘So-that’s-what-she-means!’ sorta moments. Even Thoreau was a wordy fella and often mucked through six or seven rewrites before lighting on a final version. “You’d be surprised how little you need to get your points across. Strip sentences down. Clear out the clutter,” Hale writes. ‘Nuff said.
Hale dispels some common controversies in written English (Never end a sentence with a preposition, Never split infinitives) and shovels advice on the proper use of grammatical Malvolios (who vs. whom, bad vs. badly, and the English preoccupation with and chronic abuse of the word ‘like’). Though she diagrams sentences with wild abandon and laces the boudoir with antecedents, high energy verbs, and saucy nouns, Hale’s kindler, gentler side entices writers to find the Music, Voice, Lyricism, Melody, and Rhythm in their work. Grammatical accuracy, while a noble objective, should not overrule the natural voice and rhythm in your writing, especially if your characters speak in dialects or distinctive language sets.
If I had more room, I would eagerly compile lists of Hale’s Do’s and Don’ts, the words to politely avoid and words to torch at all costs, and the multiple examples of beauty risen from the swamps. The writer who absorbs Hale’s opus will, at first, wrestle in fits and starts with old habits fighting for their last sucks of oxygen. Let them suffocate. Sin and Syntax is a style manual for the modern writer, a diuretic for written bloat, preoccupied with a sole objective: truth in prose.
Full review forthcoming on Best Damn Creative Writing Blog. Walter Mosley's voice is the power behind this story--soft-spoken, the epitome of class--i...moreFull review forthcoming on Best Damn Creative Writing Blog. Walter Mosley's voice is the power behind this story--soft-spoken, the epitome of class--infusing the work with a rare nuance many writers strive for but few achieve. The story of Leonid McGill is complex and intricately woven (don't blink or you'll miss something), and Mosley's prose went down like a shot of expensive double-malt scotch. Smooth. So, so smooth.
Check Best Damn Creative Writing Blog for my full review and summary! (less)