Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The Complete Stranger In the Drawing Room with the Candlestick

I just finished Cold Sight by Leslie Parrish. For the first time in memory, I actually enjoyed the mystery plot far more than the romantic plot - I actually skimmed much of the relationship stuff - up until the very end of the book. However, I'm very glad I read it because I learned something very important about the art of writing good, spine-tingling suspense.

The story is about reporter Lexie Nolan who is currently in the reporter dog house after an investigation she conducted of the disappearance of close to twenty teenage girls ended nowhere. Local law enforcement is not only unhelpful but downright hostile over Lexie's suggestions that their small town is anything but safe and that if the missing girls had been from the upper class side of town rather than from the Boro - on the wrong side of the tracks - perhaps they'd take her fears that a serial killer is at work seriously. Thankfully, Lexie has an extremely smart and understanding boss, and when he receives a tip about some human remains found just outside of town, he insists that Lexie get back on the case, especially since another girl, Vonnie, has just gone missing and there still might be time to help her.

Stuck at a dead end and with no help at all from the police chief, Lexie decides to seek out the help of disgraced psychic Aidan McConnell, a man who hates reporters on principle and based on his own bad experiences. After a search for a missing boy ended tragically, Aidan has determined never again to use his gifts as a means to find anyone since he doesn't want to be responsible for anyone else's fate or pain. At first he flat out refuses to even speak to Lexie, but slowly he finds himself compelled to help find the missing girl.

As Lexie and Aidan begin to dig into the town's dark history, they learn that the disappearance of teenage girls is only the tip of the iceberg. Prominent and supposedly upstanding citizens of the community have been engaging in acts of unspeakable evil for decades, and it appears that those missing girls are, indeed, the victims of a serial killer left to attack again and again. Lexie and Aidan race against the clock to solve the mystery while Vonnie's future becomes more and more uncertain.

Okay, going forward there are very mild SPOILERS, but if, given that this is a romantic suspense book and thus, by nature, builds on suspense and reader ignorance, those who don't want any ideas of what happens should stop reading now.

Okay, Thanks?

My blog has been included on this list of "50 Best Blogs for Creative Writers" at bestcollegesonline.com. I don't know how I ranked inclusion, but given the company I keep is Paperback Writer and Pocket Full of Words, I certainly won't ask questions. I check both of those blogs on a daily basis and recommend them highly as places for great advice on the art of writing.

I'm more excited to check out the other links on list. I'm always happy to find resources for writing advice. Bits and pieces here and there really add up.

Monday, September 20, 2010

The Freaks Come Out Again

First, read this.


One of my favorite movies is The American President, and one of my favorite scenes in the movie is when President Andrew Shepard (aka, Michael Douglas) gives a speech in front of the press in which he delivers a major smackdown to a Senator Bob Rumson (aka Richard Dreyfuss) who has been publicly maligning his character. In this speech is this bit that I love:
America isn't easy. America is advanced citizenship. You've got to want it bad, because it's going to put up a fight. It's going to say "You want free speech? Let's see you acknowledge a man whose words make your blood boil. Who's standing center stage and advocating at the top of his lungs that which you would spend a lifetime opposing at the top of yours."
So, while I fully understand on an intellectual level that Mr. Scroggins has a right to believe whatever he wants and to express that opinion in whatever way he wants, it sure is hard to remember what it means to be an American especially when the street is only running in one direction. If I have to respect his right to not read something that he finds offensive (?!?), then why doesn't he have to respect my right - and the right of every other American - to read whatever we choose?

The nice thing about that above little snippet: As Americans, we have to respect our fellow countrymen's rights. However...

...we don't have to respect them as people. Which is a good thing because my respect for Mr. Scroggins is in the negative numbers. Clearly he has never read Speak, the book he is trying to have banned, because he would know that it is about as far from pornography as it is possible to get. How dare he judge something he himself has never read and then attempt to enforce that judgment on others?

...we don't have to like people like Mr. Scroggins. Which is a good thing because it is fundamentally impossible for me to like anyone who presumes to tell me what to do, what I can or can't read, that I'm a bad person because I don't share the same beliefs. Or a man who insists that he knows better than I do what is right for my children and would deny them anything that is their right to have, including the right to read whatever they want. People have gone to war to protect the rights of their children.

...we are allowed to form opinions about people such as Mr. Scroggins and his beliefs and express them on blogs such as this and in letters to the editor and in any way that makes our voices louder than his. Yay free speech!

...we are allowed to employ our own religious beliefs and tenants to come to the conclusion that Mr. Scroggins does not represent the true spirit of Christianity, that he clearly has no clue What Jesus Would Do, and that what goes around comes around, Karma is a bitch, and St. Peter has made note of this and will most definitely have words with Mr. Scroggins when he goes knocking on those pearly gates.

...we are allowed to speculate what kind of psychological issues Mr. Scroggins must suffer given that he equates the brutal horror that is rape with the titillating nature of pornography. I'm sorry, Mr. Scroggins, for the traumas you must have suffered in your past that have given you such a twisted and unhealthy view of human sexuality. I also ask you to stay very far away from my family and friends.

...we are allowed to ask what kind of person could call himself moral when he advocates the blame-the-victim mentality that causes rape victims to remain quiet about a violent, cruel crime committed against them. We are allowed to worry about the women in Mr. Scroggins life knowing that he would show them the same lack of compassion and human empathy should they ever - God forbid - suffer such a horror.

...we are allowed to call Mr. Scroggins un-American and question his patriotism. Banning books is about as un-American as you can get. It goes against everything we stand for - freedom of people to determine what is best for themselves and their families as long as they do not hurt or infringe upon the rights of others. With his crusade to ban Speak and other books, he's stomping all over my rights.

...we are allowed, in fact, to imply that Mr. Scroggins' thinking is far more in-line with those of members of the Taliban and Al Qaeda given that he proposes nothing less than a government and legal system based on a slate of fundamental religious "laws". Gah! What's next, Mr. Scroggins? You planning to make your fortune selling burkas?

 ...we are allowed to read Speak and to encourage our teens to read Speak. I own a copy and when my daughter is a bit older and more mature, I will encourage her to read it.

And in that way, we will be victorious over petty tyrants such as Mr. Scroggins and his posse of fellow book banners.

God Bless America.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Write Like You're Dying

I sometimes wonder what my family would do with all of my writing things if I suddenly died.

My husband is generally not the nostalgic type, and despite my certainty that he would be sad about my passing, I can't imagine him holding on to my writing stuff as some sort of shrine or tribute to my memory. He hates clutter and I would suspect he'd sweep the contents of my shelves into the garbage without a thought, although I'd at least hope he'd go for recycling all of the paper and giving the empty binders to Goodwill or something.

I wonder if anyone - my kids or my mother - might take the time to read my notes or the pages of various manuscripts that I've printed out. I have everything very nicely organized, with each story idea in its own binder or folder. I wonder if they'd be able to understand my plans or make enough sense out of my notes and scribbles that they'd be able to see what story I'd wanted to tell. Maybe they'd shake their heads sadly and determine that I'd been completely delusional about ever thinking I could be published. I like to think they'd shake their heads sadly and think what a waste it was that I never finished what I'd started or that I didn't have the chance to get all of those stories out of my brain and onto paper.

As morbid as this line of thinking is, I've been doing it more recently because the uncertainty of life has been smacking me in the face. My father is currently undergoing treatment for leukemia, a battle he's been fighting for almost a year now. Cancer is one illness that had never struck my family until now, so I'm getting my first taste of how this disease completely and totally takes over your life. Plans implode and intentions for projects disappear in a poof. Between the constant exhaustion and the side effects from the drugs and the trips to the doctor and the time spent in the hospital, there simply isn't time or energy to do much other than survive the day.

To punctuate this reality, the gals over at Smart Bitches posted a tear-jerking video made by an Australian man who has cancer as a birthday gift for his wife. I was so moved by the video that I found his website and am determined to follow him as he fights for his life. Hard to believe I could care so much about what happens to a complete stranger, but my heart goes out to him and his family, and I pray for his recovery.

Finally, Adele over at Persnickety Snark recently posted about her frustrations and despair over the status of her writing, and I find that her thoughts very closely echo my own. Between a lack of discipline and a crisis of confidence, I'm doubting my ability to ever become a successful writer. It's very embarrassing to have friends and family ask me about my writing and to have no good news or even a decent excuse as to why it's going so slowly other than that I'm a slacker.

So I think about all of those partials sitting in various stages on my shelves or residing in the folders on my laptop's hard drive and I think what a shame it would be if something happened that I couldn't finish all of the things I started. Or if all of those stories in my head never got told and died along with me. Surely I don't think that I would be changing the world by putting them on paper, but how sad if I didn't at least try to share them in some way, to leave behind that part of me as some sort of legacy for my kids.

Clearly the gods are conspiring to remind me that the time we have is limited, and waiting until tomorrow is a risky thing to do because you never know what's going to come at you. If for no other reason than to leave behind stuff that my husband might be reluctant to toss, I need to finish what I start.