The Guilty Party

Friday, April 30, 2010

You Think Writing a Novel is Tough, pt. 2

A little over year ago I did a piece titled "You Think Writing a Novel is Tough" in which I examined a number of blurbs unknown writers (much like myself) were using to try to catch the attention of readers/reviewers at a couple of the writers' websites I like to loiter in. It was pretty apparent, at least to me, that what should be the simple, straightforward act of writing a sentence or two that neatly encapsulates ones novel is in fact a more than challenging task, one that is indeed fraught with peril. A lot of folks got a big kick out of the piece, others took exception and told me to go to blazes, or words to that effect. So to please the one set I thought we would revisit the subject. This time I restricted myself to the top ranked works at just one writers' site. These books are the ones getting the most positive attention, the ones most likely to end up in front of a professional editor for a critique and, who knows?! Perhaps even a published contract. If the editors can get past the blurbs.

The Twelfth House

Fiction, Thriller, Historical Fiction, Fantasy

Death awards John with mindreading.
The ancient sword awakes Aleksandra's pastlife memories.
David is after ancient civilisation's secrets. The race for survival is on.

Fiction? Really? I must say that I had no idea Death passed out rewards. Ancient swords can be tricky, so that looks like fun. And if ancient civilization (there was just one?) has its secrets, then perhaps David should exercise some courtesy and find something else to occupy his time. That race looks like it will be challenge enough.

Belfast Girls

Fiction, Thriller, Romance, Comedy

Three girls, friends from childhood. Supermodel Sheila Doherty is kidnapped. Can John Branagh rescue her? Her friend, Phil, is arrested. Mary takes an overdose.

Just a tad confused here, probably my fault. Is Sheila the Supermodel one of the three friends? Is Mary? If so, that just accounts for two. Unless Phil used to be Philleda and the reason for his arrest is because he absentmindedly stepped into the men's restroom at TGIF.


A Child from the Wishing Well

Literary Fiction, Thriller

Gerard's wish is to break out of paranoia, discover daughter Rosie's love.
Is music tutor Ruth's foul-smelling well a place wishes happen?
Psychological suspense thriller

I can hardly blame Gerard for wishing not to be paranoid anymore. It must be wearing on a person. As for discovering Rosie's love, has Gerard considered perhaps sneaking a look at her cell phone and checking her texts? Chances are most of them will be from her sweetie. And I can't imagine having a open, odiferous hole on the property is any enticement for prospective music students. But what do I know.


Phasmatis: Back to Life

Fiction, Fantasy, Children's, Young Adult

You're a kid. You die. That's not how it's supposed to be.
So you need to get back to sort things out. But how?

Ask for Mr. Jordan. Unless he only handles grownups who died inconveniently. I'm thinking that would keep anybody busy.


Alby And Me

Literary Fiction, Historical Fiction, Young Adult

A powerful and poignant evocation of the special friendship of two unusual boys, and the dramatic events that shaped their lives.

Powerful and poignant? You don't say? And it involves something special, unusual characters, and dramatic events. Gotta be good, right? But my first impulse when I see the word "evocation" is to evacuate the premises. Lord only knows what other sorts of verbiage the actual misdemeanor might contain in droves.

Future's End

Fiction, Thriller

In 2015 our world again stands on the precipice of global financial meltdown. This time we fall over into the cauldron of anarchy waiting below.

Oh now you're just bumming me out. Unless it means all records of my credit card debt are lost in the cauldron of anarchy. That would be cool.


Sicilian Shadows

History, Biography, Travel, Crime

Based on real experiences.
An English child. An ancient isle.
A sweetheart, mythology, the Mafia, good food, Frank Sinatra, philosophy and...a shotgun.

And it all adds up to….a book in need of an actual theme.

Deadly Nevergreen

Fiction, Literary Fiction, Thriller, Crime

Saxon burial mounds and smugglers' caves; thatched cottages and village churches; not a setting in which you'd expect to be kicked to death.

And in just what sort of setting could one reasonably expect to encounter death by boot toe? Come to think of it (now that I reread the blurb) just which setting are you referring to? Seems to me there is a bit of difference in ambience between a smugglers' cave and a village church. Or not. I suppose it depends on the smugglers and the pastor involved.

Impeding Justice

Fiction, Thriller, Crime

The Unicorn returns with clear intent ... to make life unbearable for DI Simpkins!

Ancient swords are tricky, but unicorns with clear intent are to be avoided altogether. Although think about it, when have you ever met a unicorn that wasn't at least a wee bit indecisive?


The Free

Fiction, Thriller, Romance, Young Adult

Live through the collapse of capitalism, blow by blow,
with a rainbow of self-help community adventurers..
Laughing and lamenting.. Inventing revolution.

Is this the sequel to the one about financial meltdowns and cauldrons of anarchy? And is the credit card deal still on the table?


The Keeper and the Rune Stone

Fiction, Fantasy, Children's, Young Adult

An unholy ritual, a horrifying result. A ticking clock. Four children discover that there are things that go bump in the night.

Unholy rituals have a deserved reputation for horrifying--or at least deeply weird--results. Ticking clocks are simply doing what they were intended to do and should not be blamed for the time sensitive problems experienced by folks who most likely procrastinated their way into whatever bind they are in. And if the children will simply pull the covers over their heads they can be confident that they will be safe from the sound of the house settling.


The Swan Bonnet

Historical Fiction, Children's, Young Adult, Crime

Swans are endangered in 1920s Alaska yet Dawn plans to see the fall migration. In their seaport town, her mother's hat can decoy poachers.

Just how does a hat decoy poachers? Do we mean that it looks like a swan? If so, and there are swan poachers about, I'm thinking that wearing such headgear would be courting trouble.


Golden Moon

Fiction, Children's, Young Adult, Comedy

Golden Moon shares telepathic images and recollections about birth, mid-western ranch life, running Mustang wild and coming home to a boy's love.

And it's funny too.

Another Day in Paradise

Fiction, Romance, Business, Crime

Reed faces the horror of a wrong decision. Revenge is the only answer, but how ? He thinks he has fourteen months. It's much less.

These are all short, punchy sentences. But they don't really tell us anything, do they? What was the decision  Reed made? It must have been a doozy.


Popular Culture, Christian, Religious, Comedy

You're not coming in, you're not on the list. God's barred white folk from heaven. John-the-Catholic doesn't think it's fair. He thinks he has 'rights'.

The Big Guy would probably prefer "God has" to "God's", but maybe He's (sorry, He is) more open minded about such things than I give Him (or Her, covering my bases here) credit for. In any case, it looks to me like a deity is about to be served with a summons. Wouldn't want to be the fellow delivering that bit of paper.


The Time Hunters

Fiction, Fantasy, Children's, Young Adult

Becky, Joe, Uncle Percy, Will Scarlet and a Sabre-tooth tiger called Milly race through and against time on a quest for the legendary Golden Fleece.

This one works. Leaves a person to wonder how it came to be in such company.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Keep Learning

How many folks do you know who just seem to have stopped being interested in learning? Why read a book? Why learn a new skill? Why do anything that is challenging when just getting through life is enough for anyone? According to them life is doing their job, watching their television shows, going to the time share condo a couple of times each year. The time for stretching, for facing new adventures is past. That sort of thing is for young people.

Well, my father-in-law, who is in his seventies, decided he wanted to learn how to play the guitar. And he's going about it in a pretty intensive fashion, including taking lessons twice a week from two different instructors. One of the snags he has run into has been finding the right instrument, one that fits him, has good action (guitar players will understand) and ideally has the sort of sound quality that makes a fellow want to keep practicing. After two tries with an okay quality dreadnought and an entry level classical model, he asked me to go guitar shopping with him. Well, that was an easy "you betcha".

So a couple of days ago he and I went to Milano's Music in downtown Mesa, the place where decades ago I took lesson from a terrific teacher named Charlie Cooper. The salesman unlocked the padlock on the Nice Guitar Room and my father-in-law settled in to try a whole bunch of guitars. We almost missed the one you see in the picture. It's a Martin OM-1. Just the right size, beautiful action and a bell-like quality to its sound that made us both smile from the first note.

I know not everyone has a bucks to put down on a Martin. But that's not the point. Attaching enough importance to doing something new, something difficult, and making the commitment to follow through and take the challenge, that's the point.

Go Ye Forth and Do Likewise 

Thursday, April 8, 2010

We Have Met the Enemy And He Is Us


I have been a fan of the Phoenix Suns basketball team since the team's inaugural 1967-68 season. I had my radio tuned to every game and when the Suns made it to the NBA finals against the perennial powerhouse Boston Celtics in 1976 it was a wonderfully exhilarating if ultimately heartbreaking time to be a Suns fan. We had to wait until 1993 before the chance to win it all came around again and once again, even with amazing performances by Charles Barkley, Kevin Johnson and the rest of the Suns team, we came up short, this time against Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls.

But as disappointing as those two Seasons The Could Have Been were, what has really been the bane of any Suns fan's existence has been how the team has been dogged by its reputation as soft. A finesse team. One that can run all day and score like mad, but when things get tough they wither. Bad calls or, more often, the lack of calls, messes with their concentration, makes them whine, takes them out of their game, literally hands the reins over to the opposing team. The teams who have been able to exploit this weakness have had the Suns at their mercy for years. And no team has gotten into and scrambled the heads of both the players and the fans more consistently than the San Antonio Spurs. They know how to push enough to get the Suns out of sync but not enough to get in trouble with the officials. They are always borderline and often over the line rough, but they do it in a way that makes it seem like they are just playing hard, not dirty. And the reason they do it is because they know it works.

Well, maybe not so much anymore. With Alvin Gentry as head coach the Suns have acquired a new persona, one that is tough, focused and together. They still score like mad and run like the wind, but under Gentry's leadership they have added that heretofore missing dimension. And they are doing it with players that just a short time ago were doing not much more than warming the bench, either in Phoenix or some other city. Louis Amundson, Jared Dudley, Goran Dragic, Channing Frye and Robin Lopez are integral parts of a team that is looking very much like a contender, something most experts would have said was not in the cards for the Suns any time soon.

How did Gentry do it? I think he made the Suns players believe in themselves and what they were capable of doing, not buy into what everyone said about them, what their "heritage" as Suns confined them to. He has shown them, or rather he has guided them to the place where they can show themselves, that they have control. It doesn't belong to the refs or to the San Antonio Spurs, it belongs to each of them, and good things can happen when they recognize and act on that fact.

Last night the Suns hosted the Spurs. It is true that the Spurs no longer have defensive specialist Bruce "Whack Your Arms" Bowen, and it is also true that All Star point guard Tony Parker has lost a step or two to plantar fasciitis. But as long as Greg Popovich is the Spurs head coach you can count on them to execute in the same old way, the way that used to rattle the Suns players and frustrate their fans. Well it looked like it was going to happen again last night. All of a sudden a fourteen point lead had shrunk to five and it looked like the slow-it-down, get tough Spurs were getting control of a game that the Suns had been dominating. But that only lasted a couple of minutes. The missed calls were, for the most part, shrugged off, the focus got turned up a notch, and the Suns took back control. They would not let the other team dictate how the game was played, especially not the game inside their heads. And the result was a convincing 112-101 win.

A couple of years ago we put a press-on lettering saying in our front entryway. It spells out what I think is a real key to making a successful life for yourself. I've been trying, with spotty success, to incorporate it into my own life, so I know how tough those few simple words can be to follow. But when I can see them being put into use, see the results, see it is not only possible but that the consequences are worth striving for, it gives me more determination than ever to do what it says above the mirror/hat rack by our front door.


Change Your Thoughts
And You
Change Your World

Go Ye Forth and Do Likewise.

And thanks to Walt Kelly, creator of Pogo.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Japanese Friendship Garden and First Fridays

Just wanted to share some photos I took this past Friday evening. We took the light rail to downtown Phoenix to check out the Japanese Friendship Gardens and First Fridays. One is a serene oasis and the other is a bit of a raucous, if very congenial, "happening". I enjoyed both. Although my enjoyment of the even probably had a lot to do with discovering a little record (yes, I said record) store along the route blocked off for First Fridays. For about nine dollars I got albums by Count Basie, Joe Venuti and George Barnes and replaced a double album by Focus that I had ill advisedly edited out of my collection some years ago.

The light rail "driver" announced as we approached Phoenix that there would be a slight delay around 52nd Street as we changed drivers. On one side of where we stopped was the Tovrea Castle. On the other side of the road was what I suppose one would call, for lack of a more accurate term, a gentlemen's club. It did leave us to wonder just where the replacement driver had been spending his time.

The Portland district, which we walked through on our way to and from the Japanese Friendship Gardens, is a nice area of townhomes and businesses like the insurance agency this Nash Metropolitan promotes.

Tap dancers. I love tap dancing.

Not exactly a hole in the wall, but definitely on the neighborhood eatery side, especially if your neighborhood is south of the border. We had a very nice meal here, although some of our party had to be persuaded not to retreat to the Quiznos across the street. Here's a link to a review site with some other folks' comments about Tacos de Juarez. The place doesn't seem to have its own website. No surprise there.

The lightrail train was packed on our way back to Mesa. This fellow, with his bicycle, took up more than his share of space. But it was tough to be upset about it since it was a pretty good bet he had no space to call his own. When we got to our station, which was the end of the line, he did not get off the train.

Go Ye Forth and Do Likewise

Although you might want to get off the train eventually.

A Bit About Me

My photo
I am a writer with a longtime interest in photography. I'm a dad, husband, photographer, and not very good guitarist. My first novel, Boomerang, is available in both paperback and ebook form at Amazon, Barnes and Noble and As a matter of fact, my second novel, The Baer Boys, can be found at exactly the same places.