A to Z Challenge 2013

Monday, August 31, 2009

Tyrian, part 3

The following is a continuation of a musing I began long ago. Check out part one and two if you haven't had the chance yet. This is first draft stuff, so free free to point out anything done right or wrong.

"I don't know..." The next few words were a strangled cry as Tyrian's hand squeezed his neck. Nin's bare feet kicked out with futility; a convict in leg irons had more chance of escaping.

"I'm sure you're aware of how little time is left? I'm not even going to pretend patience, Nin." Tyrian held the little traitor at arm's length, his eyes unrepetent as the face began to turn blue. After a moment, he lowered him to the ground once more, but he continued to hold on with a firm grasp. "Just tell me where."

Coughs racked Nin for a moment before he could speak. "You know, it's kind of hard to talk when you're squeezing..." The look in Tyrian's eyes stopped him cold. "He's in the belt. Dark side and all that. You know how your...I mean...that is..."

Fire flared in Tyrian's blue eyes for a moment. His grip was solid, and he knew he could end the weasel for good. Anger warred with duty, his fingers flexing ever so slightly on the little man's neck. He let his hand fall to his side, the hand curling into a fist tightly. "A judgement is coming. Bet on it." Tyrian strode away before he could change his mind.

The silence of the place was beginning to wear on him. His sandled footsteps echoed loudly with each stride. The walls he walked past no longer shined; a dull elephant grey was spreading from the corners, lacing the fine marble with spiderwebs of decay. He paused at the half open gates, the peeling finish rough under his palm. This was the last time he would walk through this portal - he knew that now. Their belief in their own immortality was irrevocably shattered, and this was no longer their home. Those that cowered in dark corners within were just as responsible as the one who began this war.

Tyrian pulled on the stubborn gates, his muscles bulging with effort. They had not been moved in a millenia, but he was finally able to close them fully. The remaining inhabitants had condemned themselves long ago, so he would waste no pity on them today. His palm hovered in front of the lock as he closed his eyes. He searched his memory, dredging up the age-old ritual. Nodding to himself, he began to concentrate and whisper the words necessary. Electric tendrils of pitch sprung from his palm to enfold the lock, leaving scorch marks behind on the dull metal. His jaw tightened in grim determination as he finalized the process. This was the second time he'd had to perform this function, locking out the world and locking up utopia. But like the man said, he was here to protect them - whether they knew it or not.

He turned away, ignoring the tears that came unbidden. The fiend would pay for every soul left behind, for making him do the one thing he hated most. Tyrian would just have to ignore familial connections this time. He launched skyward, the horrific screams of those left behind fading in an instant. The largest planet was a fitting place to end this. Vengeance was wrong - he'd been told that from the beginning. Call it justice then. Either way, the man better not look this way because Tyrian just didn't care anymore.

Blogman To The Rescue

On Wednesday, Elana had a post begging the question "What Does Blog Stand For?" I put in a comment with a few choices, but the one moment of brilliance (dare I say it...yes I will) I had was Batman Looking Over Gotham. It was evidently a hit with the rest of the commentors, and Abby even went so far as to create a badge for it (thank you Abby, and I hope you don't mind me stealing it). The badge is really cool.
I cannot tell you how awesome this has made my Monday. It's rare that I come up with something cool like this, so to see it spawn comments and badges is too cool for words. Since this has made my day and given me visions of black capes and pointy-ear masks, I'm going to spread the love. Here are the rules of this badge. Feel free to have fun with it, and hopefully it will create smiles all 'round.
1. Tell us your favorite hero/superhero (it doesn't have to be Batman, after all) and why.
2. Copy the badge and post it on your blog.
3. Present the badge to five (the number of points on a Batarang) other worthy bloggers.
4. Post links to the five people you nominate.
5. Comment on their pages to let them know they have been nominated.
My favorite superhero actually is Batman. I've always liked the Dark Knight persona - an extremely capable martial artist (ninjitsu, in his case), an untouchable pillar of good, and someone who doesn't mind tossing the bad guys around a bit to get the answer he needs.
I've copied the badge from it's creator Abby and have posted it here.
I am presenting this badge to:
  1. Elana - I can just see her tying on the black cape and jumping across rooftops.
  2. Brian - Although his site is not dark at all, he is a fully-fledged knight.
  3. Rebecca - Despite the fact that she's on the other side of the pond, she is a staunch defender of writing in all it's forms.
  4. Danyelle - Her sunny disposition is exactly what every superhero needs.
  5. Lost Wanderer - Her darkened blog is in contrast to the shining example she sets as a writer.
I am winging my way to let the respective awardees know of their great fortune. Hopefully everyone else will enjoy this as much as I am.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The '80s...You Gotta Love Em

A friend of mine sent me an email with a YouTube link to a cheesy 1980's movie (not Ice Pirates), and it got me to thinking. For those who weren't old enough (or born, for that matter), the 1980's was a period of extreme cheesiness (is that a word?) The movies of the era were often enough really bad (or good I suppose, depending on your preference), and the music industry produced alot of one-hit-wonders.

It was a weird time, at least here in the U.S. One thing I can't answer however, is whether literature followed the same pattern as movies and music. I did read alot of books back then, just as I do now. But I don't know if what I read was representative of the culture at that time. I'm talking about mainstream literature (whatever that equates to), that was subject to the cultural norms or acceptance of the time period.

I was in school for almost all of the '80s, graduating in '89 (yes, I'm showing my age here...Michelle H. and Guppster, stop counting up the years). So the books I was reading at the time were probably either something I was forced to read (i.e. homework assignments) or sci-fi/fantasy only, since I hadn't broadened my reading horizons as much back then.

Can anyone tell me what it was like back then, with regards to the number of cheesy (but accepted) books? Did the literary world abstain from this foolishness or did they follow along just like everyone else?

In Awe...And Taking Notes

I recently picked up a copy of Duma Key, a Stephen King novel. I've been a fan of King for many years, but I had stopped reading him for a while because I wanted to find new authors and explore other areas of literature. As I was browsing through the bookstore however, he came calling back to me with a fury.

Purchasing the book at that point was inevitable. When a book grabs my attention - or an author - there's no turning away. I generally am stuck with picking up whatever their latest book is and plunging in. This was no exception. Earlier I read Davin's post where he introduces the idea of 17 pages, and it was in my subconsious. Sure enough, I happened to look up at the page number and I was at page 15. I was already hooked, and I had formed impressions of the characters. What's more, I got there without even realizing I had turned past 14 other pages.

Now I'm a quick reader, so it should come as no surprise that I can speed through 14 pages in an instant. What I realized however, was that if I hadn't paused to think about things, I'd still be heavily engrossed in the story and turning to page 20 by now. This is the goal I am striving for, to be such an exceptional writer that my readers are instantly wrapped up in my story and are willingly available for the whole ride. I don't have any clue where this story is going, but I don't mind because the book is impossible to put down.

There are authors I have read that are good at their craft. There are authors that make me curse and wish I hadn't wasted my money. But there are also authors that just leave me in awe. King is one of those. While I don't always agree with the level of...ahem....colorful language, I've grown accustomed to his style so it's okay. I'm also a former soldier, so it's not like I'm going to blush either. But his ability to instantly take me away to wherever the story is happening leaves me whirling. I read the words, I watch the structure, but I can't nail it down to any one thing; he's just a great storyteller.

I've had an epiphany while working my way through this post, figuring out how to vocalize everything. I started this writing journey with the intent to become published. I've said that often enough, because that has been my goal. I realize now however, that publication isn't really what I want to do anymore. I want to become an exceptional writer. Period. If I manage to publish something, cool. But if I can learn to write at even half that level, I'll be very happy. Perhaps this should be obvious, and I'm sure everybody is nodding their heads, but I have had the idea of publication hanging out there in front of me like a hallucinatory vision. The golden chalice sitting just beyond the fingertips. Not anymore. It's time to swivel the arrow in a new direction, pointing exactly where it should have been all along.

Are there any authors you read that leave you awestruck? Have you ever written a passage yourself that just made you say, "Oh yeah....that's good stuff"?

Somedays We Just Don't Feel Worthy...

...or is this just me? I have been remiss in mentioning honors others have bestowed on me, as if they didn't really mean anything. Nothing could be further from the truth. I can't explain what has been going on in my world lately, other than to say I haven't been particularly productive. Part of it might be because I'm currently in 'Technical Writing Hell' as I work on a 20+ page project for graduation. If you've never had the pleasure of doing technical writing, you have no idea what you're missing out on. Here I am trying to pare down my writing, clear out the fluff, make everything precise and effective. Along comes my technical writing project, and they actually demand and expect a huge amount of fluff. I have to re-iterate things multiple times, just stated in different ways. To say it drives me crazy is a huge understatement.
Needless to say, a number of my fellow bloggers have bestowed awards on me and I would be remiss if I did not mention their names. Windy, TereLiz, and Jenna all have awarded me with the Kreativ blogger award. TereLiz even went so far as to re-work the icon so that it is more "manly", just for me. I hope you don't mind me stealing and posting it here. I just really like what you did with it and think everybody should see your awesome Photoshop skills!

I have been given the Kreativ blogger award before, but I cannot express my thanks to the three of you enough this time. As I said, I haven't been feeling very creative, so this reminded me that I have a job to do and a muse to keep happy. Since I can't possibly follow ALL the tenets of this award (naming 7 other individuals to give it to, meaning 21 other people), I will at least tell you 7 things about myself that I haven't revealed before.

1. In high school, I was my Biology teacher's assistant for two years straight and was often referred to as "Beeker" by my fellow classmates. For those who don't know, Beeker is the lab assistant in the Muppets. Not exactly a flattering nickname perhaps, but probably closer to the truth than I would care to admit.

2. In 3rd grade, I wrote a poem about my grandparents house in Missouri. I still have it laminated on posterboard somewhere in my garage, so if I can find it, I'll post a copy of it here.

3. I have a tattoo on my chest of Superman and The Incredible Hulk. The former is for my younger son, and the latter is for my older. Hulk towers over Supes, almost in the same manner one brother towers over the other, and he's just as protective. The bad part is I still have to go through probably 4 more hours of work to get Hulk finished.

4. I was given an Article 15 (disciplinary action for those who don't know) in the Army - during Basic Training, no less - for going to the Main PX (general store) on base even though I was not allowed to be there. Oh, the fact that a few of us were taking keepsake pictures (via an Instamatic camera) of fellow soldiers and selling them at a buck a piece didn't help either.
5. I was in the All City choir in middle school, All State choir in high school, have played piano since I was 9 (although its been a few years since I've "tickled the ivory"), and I even tried out for the Army Band - unsuccessfully, of course.

6. Despite the fact that I have lived all my life (mostly) in Denver, Colorado, I have never tried skiing or snowboarding. The funny thing is, there are more of us like that here than one would think, and the skiers that come from out of town stare at us in wonder. How could we dare live so close to the Rockies without skiing? My answer is simple: I like my bones unbroken.

7. I truly believe I am part lizard, because I absolutely love hot days. There are times I will drive home from work with all the windows up, after my truck has baked in the sun all day, just basking in the waves of heat like a sauna. As far as I'm concerned, it's never too hot.

Robyn over at Putting Pen To Paper has honored me with an award for Energizing and Inspiring Reading. I don't know if I consistently attain that level of writing, but I'm happy she seems to think so (or at least did long enough to add me to the list, heh heh). Thank you Robyn for the award. I hope you know my delay in acknowledging this was not an intended slight.

Finally, if anyone out there can help me put these awards on my blog in a side panel or whatever, I'd appreciate it. Despite the fact that I'm a 'puter geek, I can't ever seem to figure out how to adjust my layout for things like this.
Oh, and do you have any advice for effective technical writing? I'm hoping I won't have to resubmit my project more than once, but I'm open to any words of wisdom from the experienced technical writers out there.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Review - Offworld By Robin Parrish

The first manned mission to Mars is the greatest accomplishment humanity has achieved. A crew of four incredible astronauts make the journey, advancing the knowledge of the human race beyond expectations. Something happens to Commander Burke - the man in charge - while he is on Mars, but his memory of the experience is patchy at best. He has begun hallucinating at various moments, and he is beginning to question himself.

The hallucinations strike again as the ship is returning to Earth, causing them to crash land back at Kennedy Space Center. The crew barely escapes with their lives, crawling from the wreckage to find Earth has changed significantly while they were gone. There is no homecoming party, no grand celebration; in fact, home is ominously silent. To be more precise, it appears that every living thing on the planet has disappeared at exactly the same instant. To make matters worse, an ominous bright light is present in Houston, Texas; it's bright enough be seen from a satellite circling the globe.

To say that all is not as it seems is an understatement of great proportions. The world appears to be completely unstable around them, the only other human being they run into is completely odd, and the hallucinations and memories of Mars continue to plague Commander Burke, leaving too many unanswered questions. The journey to find these answers will test them all, and what is revealed will be something they never expect.

This entertaining novel by Robin Parrish showcases a unique voice, an intriguing storyline, and fast-paced action from beginning to end. There wasn't a single dull moment, and just when I thought I knew what was going on, the book took turns in surprising directions. I have not had the pleasure of reading any of Mr. Parrish's other books, but I am quite happy to have become acquainted with his writing. I can happily say that I will be looking for other books by Robin Parrish, and if I'm very lucky (keeping my fingers crossed), I may be able to wrangle an interview with him. Keep your eyes open for it and wish me good luck. If you haven't read this book however, you need to go pick up a copy. It's an entertaining read that you won't want to put down.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Monday Muse - Necessary Thoughts And Reflections

Today I walked through many of your blogs and I found entries that really made me think. Now you all get to listen to me pander on as I work through these thoughts. Feel free to get yourself a snack. I'll wait. Okay, ready? Not everything here will be about writing, but all of these things are important for one reason or another.

One of the first noteworthy posts I stumbled onto belongs to Weronika. She had the opportunity (and I view it as a great opportunity) to work with autistic children. This is a post you really need to read through, because it illustrates an important fact of life that I've always tried to impress on my sons. Every parent tells their child "Make sure you eat all your food. There's starving children in China, dangit!", but most children (hopefully) don't really have any experience with starvation. The same idea holds true for our health. If we're really lucky, we are born fairly healthy and manage to maintain that throughout our lives.

I was actually born two months early, and my parents had to wonder for some time whether I would survive. I had to be cut open at 2 days old to unblock my intestine, and 38 years later I still carry a huge scar creasing my stomach. It is a constant reminder to me how lucky I am that I survived, and how even luckier I am to be fairly healthy.

Autistic people (as well as anyone else dealing with debilitating diseases) remind me just how lucky I am. I'm able to sit down and write in an intelligent manner, and my mind is able to coherently form sentences without much effort. It's something we often take for granted, but if you spend any length of time with an autistic person (I have an autistic nephew), you realize just how difficult your life could be. Thanks Weronika for helping to remind all of us how lucky we are. Sometimes we need to remember that and reflect on how different life would be if we had to walk in their shoes.

Galen had a post regarding military buddies that hit home for me. For those who don't know (I don't know if I've ever mentioned it before), I spent about 5 years in the US Army myself. Although I've been out since '95, my blood still flows green. I proudly wear a huge patch on my biker jacket reminding everyone to support our troops. No matter whether you support the current initiative they are a part of, support the soldiers anyway. Galen's words reminded me of some great people I have known, and as usual his storytelling is superb. Too often we tend to forget or marginalize these invisible people, out there doing what they have to. Way too often, their deaths are a statistic on the news rather than a moment for silent reflection. Take a moment and read Galen's words. They are inspirational and heartwarming.

The New Author has a great post by Larry Brooks that is awesome and irritating at the same time. Irritating, because it strikes a little too close to home. Larry cuts us "pantsers" to the quick with a precise scalpel, highlighting a topic I touched on recently - my own lack of structure in writing. Not holding anything back, Larry does an awesome job of illustrating why even us pantsers need some structure in our writing process - and he's right. He even goes so far as to throw Stephen King at us, dangit. Admitting you're a pantser is the first step.

Hello, my name is Eric and I'm a pantser.

The next step is agreeing to put some structure in your writing process, which is much harder but just as important. Larry says it better than I can, so if you haven't read this post, check it out.

If you need a laugh and a good story, stop by Michelle's page. She talks about dreams and nightmares in her usual wonderful way. Zombie bats indeed. Guppster, new story idea for you. You better ask Michelle if you can steal it though (or co-author something together, which would be awesome).

Finally, celebrations are in order. I evidently received two blog awards (which I will talk about in a later post, since this one is long enough as it is) from Michelle Mclean and Robyn Campbell. Thank you so much ladies; I am deeply honored and really appreciate it. And Rebecca Woodhead is officially Ms Twitter UK. Go give her a virtual pat on the back for doing an amazing job of marketing and promotion. She beat out celebrities for cryin' out loud.

This has been a longer post than I planned, so thanks for bearing with me. These are just things that needed to be said, and I hope you get from them what I did.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Thursday Thoughts - Prologues, POV, and Pronouncements

Today is a day for thought. First off, Johanna over at Once Upon A Novelist got me thinking about prologues. For the uninitiated (or just those of you who like clarification), prologues are a prequel of sorts. They can also be referred to as backstory, and they are used to provide a little background for the reader. Every writer has their own opinion on this, and I've read quite a few angry rants against the practice. On the surface, I can see their point and I do agree that prologues can be a bad thing. For one thing, prologues can easily end up "telling" the story versus "showing", because after all this is what you are doing - narrating what happened before your MC got to where they are now. If you're a decent enough writer, you will hopefully avoid this pitfall. I do acknowledge though, that prologues can make it more difficult.

I consider a prologue a good thing however, if it makes sense for the story as a whole. If you step back from your work and see that a prologue is necessary to make the work complete, then by all means add it in. There are contingencies with this though. You have to be extra careful not to get caught "telling". You need to maintain your author's voice throughout, so that the prologue is no different in voice from the rest of the work. The POV (something I'll touch on more in a moment) needs to stay consistent. The thread that weaves its way from beginning to end should remain unbroken throughout, so that you are not "pulling your reader out of the action", so to speak. If all of the above is in place and done well, then a prologue might work perfectly.

That's enough on prologues, so thanks Johanna for giving me something to ponder. Now let's talk about POV or point of view. This is an aspect of writing I hadn't given much thought to until other bloggers started pointing it out as significant. I then realized that my POV was all over the place, meandering around like a drunken bumblebee. So why is POV important? Well, if you're writing in 1st person, this is obvious. You can't tell the story from one person's perspective if you include other perspectives.

Telling a story from 2nd person POV is odd in my opinion. Basically it is where you tell the reader's story. It becomes more clear with an example, trust me. Writing in 2nd person would look something like this:

"You stood next to the swift river for some time, gazing into its depths. Without warning, you plunged in."

I honestly can't remember any book I've ever read that is written (entirely) in this fashion, so if anyone can enlighten me, that'd be great. I also cannot imagine writing an entire story from this POV, but I can see how much of a challenge it would be.

Writing in 3rd person POV is probably the most common (an assumption on my part, so feel free to correct me here) perspective used. It can be omniscient, where the narrator or storyteller knows everything about all characters. This particular POV is where you have to be careful, because you can get caught jumping from one character to the next, describing their feelings or whatever, and you may end up confusing your reader. You can also use 3rd person from the perspective of a certain character (I am unfamiliar with what the term is, so feel free to supply it, English majors). In this instance, only what that character actually knows, feels, sees, etc is related to the reader. For example, my MC wouldn't know exactly how a stranger on the street really feels inside, especially if their facial expressions or body language didn't provide clues.

The important thing here is to pick a POV and stick with it throughout. With 3rd person omniscient, it's very easy to get into head-hopping so be careful. Thorough editing and/or multiple drafts should help you get rid of any POV mistakes though.

Finally, as stated in the title I have a pronouncement. I have since the beginning of time proudly stated that I am a by-the-seat-of-my-pants writer. Fear not, I am not completely abandoning this practice. I still think there is value in discovering the story, but part I of Scott Bailey's post here got me thinking about my own writing processes. In my current WiPs, there are some questions I can't honestly answer that I should be able to. I should have at least some general idea of why my protag is in this story. I should have an idea of what it would take to resolve whatever the conflict is that is going on. Too many questions...too many questions...

I have therefore decided that I need a little more structure in my writing. I need to at least answer some of the basic questions from the outset - Who, What, Where, Why, and How. I can see how not answering at least 4 of these questions causes me to stumble midway through. I usually just plunge in and start writing, and I don't answer these questions. Then as I get farther down the road, I'm stuck wondering where the heck this train is headed. I already know I can't do a formal outline. Been there, tried that, it don't work. But a rough question/answer scribbling just might be what I need. Ta Da! Are you impressed? Yeah, I know it's very anti-climatic. It's been difficult for me to admit (or realize maybe) that my process just isn't working, but I don't expect everyone to hoop and holler in celebration.

What are your thoughts on prologues? Are there any POVs you absolutely would not write in (for me, its 2nd person)? Any grand pronouncements we should all be aware of (it can be just as silly as my own, with just as much fanfare)?

Monday, August 10, 2009

Monday Muse

"Harold, what the hell are you doing out there?"

He didn't even look away anymore. He was used to her constant nagging interruptions, and there were so many more important things to see. SSE-19 was high in the sky tonight, and it shined azure against the blanket of pitch. Harold wondered for the millionth time how long it would take to fly there. He imagined himself floating out in space, just out of its gravitational pull, admiring its beauty and perfection.

He had no idea what the real name of this particular heavenly object was, but it didn't matter; it was his. Every night he would trudge outside after dinner, find SSE-19 among the countless other objects in the sky, and focus in with his trusty telescope. He was positive it was a planet or moon, because it didn't flicker like stars did. It was also very blue, which sometimes made it hard to pick out. But every time Harold found it, the annoyances and irritations of his life drifted away. He could gaze at it for hours, his mind envisioning vast alien cultures and strange cities. He shifted his position on the lawn chair, the aluminum and plastic straining to support his bulk. Harold reached up to adjust the focus, his stubby fingertips working the dial with less than precise movements.

"Dammit Harold, I'm not waiting up for you again." The strident voice played along his spine like nails on a chalkboard. Maybe there were alien assassins for hire up there, he thought. A rather morbid plan maybe, but Beatrice was not exactly the most supportive wife. After 23 years, she still didn't really understand him. Alcohol didn't improve her disposition either. He wasn't exactly sure when she had adopted the habit, but it was irrelevant. Keeping an eye on SSE-19 was the only important aspect of his life anymore. He adjusted the eyepiece once more, sighting in on the prize once more. They were close to perfecting civilian space travel, he'd heard on the news the other day. Once it was safe, he'd mortgage everything he owned and be gone. Maybe he could even hijack the spacecraft and pilot it there himself. Now that would be an exciting trip.

As Harold gazed skyward, a pinprick of light flashed on SSE-19 and raced towards him. Before he could recoil, it lanced his eyeball and sent an intense wave of pain throughout his body. In the space of a breath, he could feel electrical spiders crawling along his nerves, biting and gnawing. A flash of light surrounded his body in a tight cocoon. The scream clawing its way out of his throat went unheard as his body stretched to an infinite length. Like a new rubber band, he snapped back into shape before collapsing. His breathing was labored, and coughs racked his body as strange gases invaded his lungs. A mask was placed over his mouth and nose, and suddenly he could breathe easier. His eyes still burned from the blinding flash, his vision shattered and incoherent. His arms were grabbed, and Harold could feel himself being dragged along a long corridor. He was then unceremoniously tossed into a small chamber as pain overtook him.

Some time later, Harold awoke to find himself lying on an icy metallic floor. He no longer had a mask on, but breathing was still difficult. The very air seemed to press in on him, so that even sitting up was a chore. Two thick metallic bands of blue encircled his wrists and ankles, he noticed. His head was pounding, a headache of migraine proportions that made thinking difficult. Harold managed to stand with effort, the bands on his wrists heavy and uncomfortable.

"It's good that you are awake finally. I was about to institute further protocols, ones that I'm sure you would not have enjoyed."

The voice seemed to come from everywhere around him, leaving Harold turning his head this way and that. He was in a small metallic room about ten feet across, with only one apparent door built into the wall. There were no light sources, but the walls, ceiling, and floor glowed an eerie blue. The corners were deep shadows, so Harold retreated to the center of the room. His frantic eyes looked this way and that, but he couldn't see anyone.

"Who said that?", he cried, trying to keep his voice level. "Where the hell am I?"

"Hell, as you put it, it exactly where you are." A shadow coalesced in the corner, standing just out of the light. Harold could barely make out two prismatic eyes that blinked and flashed within the blackness. "Your daily reconnaissance of our planet is at an end, spy." The voice echoed from all directions rather than coming from whatever this thing was.

"S..spy?" Harold managed, terror clutching at his heart. "I'm just..."

"We know exactly what you are, fool. Your pathetic attempts at cataloging our species is over. How much have you told them? What intricate plans are your people working on right now?" The voice was silky and softer now, almost feminine.

"I...I...I don't know what you mean. I'm just a guy with a telescope. I don't know anything." His voice quavered, his eyes reeling as he looked for a way out. This had to be a dream, a nightmare brought on by too little sleep. He ran towards the door, the metal bracelets banging against the walls as he pounded the door with his fists. "Let me out. I don't know anything. I'm not a spy, dammit." The sweat was poring off him in torrents as fear consumed him.

Something grabbed him from behind and slammed him back against a wall, the bracelets holding him a foot above the floor. His head rang as it struck the rough metal surface, sending lights dancing across his vision. "You're going nowhere, vile creature. Tell us what you know, and perhaps we will end your existence quickly." Harold shook his head, unable to form the words.

"TELL US WHEN THE INVASION IS COMING!" The voice made him wince, the echoes rebounding against the walls. The shadowy figure's eyes were flashing in violent rhythms now, and a grey hand extended out of the darkness, one large claw extended in his direction. Harold sputtered and wheezed, trying to wrench his arms and legs free in frantic terror. The hand disappeared once more into the darkness.

"As you wish. Your pathetic struggles will not free you, spy. We will get it from you soon enough."

A moment later, Harold fell to the floor in a heap, his legs collapsing beneath him. What the hell was going on? "LET ME OUT", he wailed. Hearing only echoes, he closed his eyes and prayed he would wake up back in his bed. With an audible click, the glow of the walls vanished as Harold opened his eyes to darkness. It was then that he truly learned what screams were for.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Changing Opinions...Slowly

Before I launch into today's topic, I'd like to extend congratulations to Rebecca over at From Brain To Bookshelf. She has been crowned Ms Twitter UK, beating out celebrities and divas alike. Nice job Rebecca; I'm so happy for you.

I have become aware of a change in my opinion on a book series I have griped about (a certain set of vampiric books). The odd thing about this change is that book one really had me convinced that it was poor writing, that the masses who chose to read this fluff were obviously ignoring so many blatantly bad things. I'm working my way through book two a.k.a. New Moon, and although I can't say I'm much more impressed by the writing style, I can say I am getting drawn into the story. I'm not a complete fan yet, but I do have to admit I see a few things here and there that have been done well.

This isn't a Twilight bashing post (and definitely not a Twilight celebration post) however. I would just like to talk about books that change as we read them. What I mean by this is that our impressions of a book can change, depending on how hooked we become. Is this just me? I hope not, otherwise somebody out there is calling the men in white coats.

I have on occasion started a book and just had a really rough time getting into it. I can't stand to leave a book unread however, so I'll plod through no matter how poorly it's written. Every once in a while, an author somehow turns the tables on me though. Before I know it, I'm actually enjoying the book and can't wait to turn the page. James Michener is a perfect example of this. The guy writes wonderfully - of that there is no doubt. I have found however, that I often have to get to a point somewhere deep within his books before I am hooked. Once the hook sets however, I'm in it willingly until the end.

This also begs the question in my mind as to how in the heck they got published? If a query letter and the first ten pages are what an author presents to an agent, I cannot imagine how anyone ever got hooked to Michener's tales. I'm glad they did of course, since I have enjoyed a few of his books. I just know that he failed to impress me right off the bat.

How do authors like that manage to alter opinions like this? My thoughts are that despite the lack of a gripping opening that demands my attention, the author's voice is so clear that I just can't put it down. It's like working on a very difficult word search puzzle, where I know the word is right there if I can just find it. So I keep on looking, examining every single letter of the puzzle until I finally find what I'm looking for. The little angel (or devil) sitting on my shoulder will not let me put a book down no matter how bad it may or may not be. They're published after all, so there has to be something worthwhile there, right?

I am still undecided with regards to New Moon as to whether it's really worthwhile, but I will grudgingly acknowledge that I am intrigued. Have you ever had an author change your opinion of them, just when you thought you were ready to put the book down for good?