Category Archives: Reading

Sunday Review: The Murderer’s Daughter

Caveat: This is the first Jonathan Kellerman novel I’ve read. It won’t be the last.

Kellerman breaks the mold of most thriller writers. He doesn’t rely on heavy plotting and endless bullets flying. Instead, he focuses on his protagonist, Grace Blades, generating genuine sympathy and concern for an intelligent child born into home of uncaring and abusive parents. Little Grace must find her own sources of food and comfort–the former consists of crumbs and trailer park hand outs; the latter she finds in books. While he has us concerned about poor little Grace, he brings us to her present day, where she is a skilled psychologist at the top of her game, with an eccentric side she keeps hidden.

Who Grace is and how she got there is what drives the reader through most of the book. That, and someone from her past who, under a false name, seeks her out. Someone from her childhood who has connections to an evil day that gives birth to the largest turning point in her life. Someone who is murdered after he leaves her office.

Kellerman weaves a dual timeline together masterfully, keeping the reader intrigued and anticipating what poor little Grace will have to face and how she will heal, while Dr. Blades seeks a killer from her past who is also seeking her. All the while, Kellerman keeps this about Grace Blades, entirely. It is about her actions, thoughts, reactions, planning, feelings, emptiness and sense of justice.

There is much a writer can learn from where he segues, and how he keeps the reader concerned about little Grace when we know she survives to be Dr. Blades. Kellerman manages to transcend his genre with character, while anchoring us with enough immediacy to turn the page and see what’s on the next.

In my opinion, the ending was cut too short. There were a couple of “false starts.” Once, it looked like Grace would be the subject of an investigation but the detective just disappears from the novel. Another time, the threat loomed larger than what it ended up as. Perhaps the worst was that hundreds of complications could’ve arisen, but none of them were explored. This novel succeeded on the journey, not the destination, but it kept me turning the pages until the end, and that is enough for me to read another.

Feeding the Foundation

As we grow not only in our craft but also as people, it’s important to establish or re-establish the foundation of why we write, what success means to us at this moment, and what fulfillment means across our lifetimes. And yes, those things can completely change in the span of a few years. Our perspectives shift, our goals change, our focus narrows. As that happens, it’s essential to revisit the foundations on which we built our dreams and goals in the first place.

Here are some general questions to help you consider the root of your inspiration for writing.

1. Why do you write?

This question gets passed around a lot, it seems. But dig deep. “Cause I’ve just gotta!” is a fine answer, but what compels you to do it? Dig deep. “Because I have unresolved issues,” is probably a more honest answer for all of us.

2. What do you want?

“Duh, to be famous.” Sure, that can be your answer. But consider the possibility you won’t be the next J.K. Rowling. Now, what do you want?

3. What is your writing routine?

Has it changed in the past few years. Does it need to change? What’s not working about it?

4. Are you still chasing dreams and goals that are rooted in a genre in which you no longer write?

For example, when I started writing, I wanted to write literary fiction. At this moment, I write mostly YA, which is a much faster market and demands faster manuscript turn-arounds. My goals need to change to fit the genre I’m writing, at least for now.

5. Do your short-term goals need re-evaluating to reflect where you are right now?

I had to re-evaluate my short-term goals when writing YA, as mentioned above, and those will constantly need to be reconsidered depending on the project.

6. Do your long-term goals need to change to reflect where you are right now?

For example, because I’m not writing literary fiction right now, and I had not considered I’d be writing YA, my long-term goals for my career need to adjust to include YA.

A Writer's Guide to Persistence by Jordan Rosenfeld

A Writer’s Guide to Persistence by Jordan Rosenfeld

The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron

The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron

There are some great resources out there to help you reflect on these things while also help you build your craft and routine.

I highly recommend The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron for an all-out overhaul, but be warned, it takes a lot of commitment to finish. Finish it. Commit to it. It’s worth it.

A Writer’s Guide to Persistence by Jordan Rosenfeld has been extremely valuable to me recently. I see it a lite version of The Artist’s Way. That’s not to demean it in any way; I simply mean it’s shorter and more compact.

Both books have been extremely valuable to me, and I hope they are for you as well.

About Kristin Luna:
Kristin Luna copyKristin Luna has been making up stories and getting in trouble for them since elementary school. She writes book reviews for Urban Fantasy Magazine and her short story “The Greggs Family Zoo of Odd and Marvelous Creatures” was featured in the anthology One Horn to Rule Them All alongside Peter S. Beagle and Todd McCaffrey. Her short story “Fog” recently appeared on Pseudopod. Kristin lives in San Diego with her husband Nic.

When Rules get you into Trouble

The_Book_Cover_Of_The_RacketeerA great writer once told me that to be a good writer, I needed to learn all the literary rules and then forget them all.

I remember the first time I shared my craft with a crit group. I remember thinking how lucky they all were to discover my talent. The session didn’t quite go as I thought. They tore apart my writing for one fundamental flaw—Point of View. In the chapter of about fifteen hundred words I switched POV at least seven times. I wrote as if I were watching a movie, each POV a different camera angle. This of course is amateurish and makes for rough reading.

In another crit group, I shared a new piece, expecting agent referrals and publishing contracts. Instead I received fantastic feedback on the concept (new to me at the time) of Showing vs. Telling.

So I upped my game. I avoided any word ending in “ly” and the word “felt” so that I could show instead of tell. (There was a great post on adverbs earlier this month). I wrote much more dialogue and I put my main POV character deep in the scene. I thought that I needed to keep reminding the reader of where my POV character was, how his/her hands were positioned, and where he/she was looking.

Instead of writing, “I picked up the phone.” I might have written something like, “I picked up the phone with my right hand while using my left to shuffle through some papers.

I’d use filtering phrases like “I could see the light glistening through the window from the outside.”

Rather than “Light glistened through the window.”

This type of writing really messes with pacing. I had written a scene as follows:

“Lenny grabbed the back of the trailer with his right hand and while running along he reached as far as he could with his left hand grabbing another part of the trailer and jumped at the same time pulling himself up though he got stuck part way but soon pulled himself up and onto the trailer. “

Rather than, “With some effort, Lenny managed to pull himself into the trailer.”

Also, I failed to give any backstory in my novel for fear of telling rather than showing. So I would get it in by an incredibly long discussion that didn’t quite work. I left my readers with a bunch of questions, because I was too afraid to “tell.”

It seemed as if I swung on the pendulum of poor writing from inappropriate use of POV and too much telling, to the other side of overuse of POV and obscurity.

To address my problems I’ve read, a lot. I take notice of when authors use “ly” words and when they use filtering and why it works or maybe how it could be better. I’ve paid attention to how an author shows a story, how he/she sets it up and establishes setting while still revealing back story, and I think I’m getting it. Maybe those publishing contracts are right around the corner or maybe I’ll have another opportunity to learn and grow or both.

I’m learning that good writing is just one element to a good story. I’ll endure page after page of telling backstory in The Rackateer by John Grisham, because the story is intriguing. I’ll ignore Larry Correia’s overuse of adverbs in his work Monster Hunter International because his story is extremely exciting and funny. I’ll overlook Michael Chrichton’s abundance of point of view filtering in Prey because the story is full of nail-biting suspense. Hopefully someday I can have the privilege of someone critiquing my work after they’ve paid for it.

jace 1I think that it is very unlikely that a person just wakes up one day and realizes that he/she is a fantastic writer. Great authors learn how to write great stories well. It takes time and lots of practice.

I think maybe I’m starting to forget some rules.

 

 

 

I Would Do Anything for Love…

 

But I won’t do that. You know what I’m talkin’ about, Meatloaf.

 

Instead, we did all of this:

Victoria Morris Threaded the Tapestry

Gregory D. Little Subverted the Meet Cute

Ace Jordan did the Science of Love to Explain the Murky Middle

Mary reminded us that All You Need is Love

Joshua Essoe gave us advice about Writing Sex ScenesIn two posts!

Clancy showed us the Flip Side: Bad Girls and Anti-Heroes and Why the Guys Love them

Travis Heermann Examined and Bound

Kim May Pleasured us with Pain

Stephan McLeroy no longer Struggles to Define Love

Leigh Galbreath Drew us in with Dysfunctional Relations

Tracy Mangum gave us a master class in Love in Screenplays

Jace Killian showed us the Try and Fail in Love

Matt Jones made Ignorant Secret Troubled Love to us

Tracy Mangum followed up with Sex in Screenplays

Lisa Mangum reminded us that First Comes Like

Frank Morin pushed A Life of Passion

Colette advised us to Let Love Simmer

And RJ Terrell wrote On Love

 

Sure, this month is over, but we know you’ll be back. If you fall we will catch you, and we’ll be waiting. Time after time.