Eight years ago I became involved in a project called 2996 . Which is a group of bloggers who’ve volunteered to write a tribute to a single victim of September 11th 2001. This project has had such impact that it carries on now to the 13th anniversary of that day. I have promised myself that I will never forget and as long as I have this blog that I will continue with these tributes. Each year. One person at time. I do this, not as a political statement but as an act of respect and love for those people who had the misfortune of going to work, getting on the wrong plane, acting like that day would be the same as any other. Wrong place, wrong time. Life cut too short. I honor those people and through a tribute in some very small way I am able to give them just a little bit of the life back that was taken from them. This year, I honor Ted Moy.
Ted Moy, 48 of Silver Spring, Maryland was U.S. Army civilian employee and worked at the Pentagon as a program manager. Ted was born and grew up in the Chinatown neighborhood of Washington, D.C. Where his parents ran Veteran’s Food Market at Fifth and H streets. Growing up he helped in the store while growing up.
While on a student trip to Taiwan in 1975, Ted met his future wife, Madeline and was smitten. They shared much in common – both had traditional Chinese parents, and grew up in a neighborhood steeped in their Asian heritage. Even their families came from the same village in China, Toi Shan in Canton province.
They married in San Francisco, on July 12, 1980 – a lucky day on the Chinese calendar.
After several moves, the Moy’s settled in Ted’s boyhood home of Washington, D.C. After 14 years at the U.S. government’s Department of Defense, Ted joined the Information Management Systems Department at the Pentagon in November 1999, where he worked until his death.
According to his wife, Madeline, Ted loved eagles and on their last Christmas together he framed a poster of an eagle with the word ‘freedom’ below the picture. Ted felt a kinship to eagles and believed them to be symbols of wisdom and courage. He was a kind and caring man and loved his country – his favorite song being ‘Stars and Stripes Forever’ – which his daughter’s string quartet played at his funeral. He collected flags and pictures of eagles and his wife has a picture of him decked out in a red, white and blue sweat suit, complete with a floppy stars-and-stripes hat that he wore on the Fourth of July.
The day before the attack, Ted and Madeline celebrated her birthday with a dinner out at Outback Steakhouse with their son, Daniel. The next morning, he went off to work at the Pentagon as usual. Later that morning, Madeline received a package – a birthday gift from Ted. She put it aside, planning to open it once Ted came home, then went to work herself.
Madeline got a call from her daughter Jessica, who told her that the Pentagon was on fire. “It was devastating, not knowing where he was.” She had just spoken to him at 8 o’clock that morning – Ted had called to remind her of their son’s orthodontist appointment. As the day wore on and details were revealed, Madeline said she accepted the worst – that her husband of twenty-one years had died at the Pentagon.
By all accounts, Ted was a kind, gentle and caring man, who loved his family, his country and to help others. His friends and colleagues can tell you more about him than I can:
I continue to mourn the loss of Ted, whom I worked with for many years at the Washington Navy Yard in the 1980s. He was always a gentle and likeable chap who was bound to his adoring family and serving his country through civilian DoD service. Ted was indeed proud of his Chinese-American roots and Washington DC ties, and continued to share his culture and ideals with those that surrounded him. May God continue to bless and hold close my dear friend and former colleague, Ted Moy.
I echo the comments of Mike Nepi. Ted was proud of his Chinese-American heritage and was dedicated to the service he provided as a civilian employee of the DoD.
Ted and I were DCYOP parents. Our daughters toured Austria and Germany with orchestra in 1999. Ted and I were chaperons. On this day and every Sept. 11th I think of Ted fondly. He was voted favorite chaperon by the orchestra members that year. I want his family to know that Erika (cellist) and I think of Ted and his daughter Jessica with fond memories. God Bless and embrace the Moy family not only today but everyday. Ted you are remembered and missed.
All the best to the Moy family, my prayers are with you always
Ted was a very loving, kind and sincere person and he will always be remembered.
Ted was an “extremely motivated person” who loved to help others. The father of two (Jessica, 19, and Daniel Ted, 15), he is remembered as a very loving dad. The night before his death, he spoke about the good relationship he shared with his children and the plans he had for their future. Ted, a deacon at the Spencerville church in Maryland, is also remembered as a devoted husband whose weekday routine was to call his wife three times during the day.
As the eagle was killed by the arrow winged with his own feather, so the hand of the world is wounded by its own skill.
I hope this tribute has done him justice. My thoughts and prayers are with Ted’s family and friends. God bless.
Let’s be honest, to be a writer, an actor, singer or any type of ‘creative’ you have to have a pretty big ego. It’s not wrong, it just is. Perhaps it’s God’s way of helping us deal with all the rejection, finger-pointing and the fact that we were looked upon as the weird geek all through high school.
Most people aren’t going to understand us. They aren’t going to understand why certain sounds might send us into a state of impassioned annoyance. Or why we’re so interested in talking to strangers and fascinated by the conversation at the next table. Or why we have that “I’m taking notes” look on our faces half the time. But that’s okay. We’re not here to be understood. We’re here to create. We’re here to enrich other people’s lives (hopefully) with the things we create. Whether it’s a song, a performance, a painting or a story – ours is a mission of finding beauty and meaning in life and reporting back. Maybe we’re also the note takers for the current culture – the predictors of what the future may hold. Some think so…
But what we aren’t is the world’s darling. We aren’t here to be loved. To gain approval. Or to be the homecoming queen. The world isn’t interested in our neediness. And yes, we’ve got it – in spades. And if the world (or any part thereof) decides to love you, it will be on its own terms, not yours.
The very fact that we create something doesn’t mean that it’s great or even good. And when it’s not we should be humble enough to accept that when someone points it out. We should be grateful that there are people in our lives who will be honest with us, tell us the truth and insist we give only our best work. Because in our best work we give what we are meant to give – an undeniable truth, a pure note, a perfect color – whatever it is, you know it when you’ve got it. When you’ve reached it. When you’ve created it.
The world does need our work. It is important. We can only give that when we put on our big girl and big boy pants and dedicate ourselves to it. And keep the griping and hurt feelings to a minimum.
Though there is the occasional anomaly – trust me you won’t:
- Pen the great American novel on a first draft
- Paint like Picasso after one art class
- Win an Academy Award for your first performance
- Sing like Caruso (or Beyoncé) after completing Music 101
If you don’t put in the work, you’ll never develop your craft enough to get there. But if you do dedicate yourself to it – earnestly and without insisting on constant love and adoration for doing your job – the world may love you after all. Or at least your work.
So the Forest Department has put out a detailed list of rules and instructions on roasting marshmallows. Thank God, because since we’ve only been roasting marshmallows over camp fires since there were marshmallows and camp fires, I’m sure we need a bit of a brush up.
So for your Labor Day weekend enjoyment, I’m going to channel my inner gubbermint worker and read between the lines for you and tell you what they really mean:
1. First of all, you’re too fat and marshmallows are empty calories, so don’t roast the dang marshmallows in the first place. Instead roast fruit, soy nuts, or tofurky (refer to First Lady’s acceptable campfire eating list on our website.).
2. If you must roast marshmallows because of some dagnabbit Christian-Judeo tradition that you claim is in the Bible, at least use the sugar-free, soy version that tastes like toilet paper and comes in a US approved recyclable package.
3. Be sure to remove the marshmallows from the package before roasting. Campfires are not like microwaves and you cannot put a packaged product into the fire without potentially causing harm.
4. Be sure to use a government approved stick. Many of our trees are endangered and we must not sacrifice them so you can have a roasting stick to make a completely unhealthy snack that we advise against in the first place. Check the endangered stick list on our website or download our convenient acceptable stick app that will glow green when you find the right kind of stick. Better yet, bring your own roasting implement so you don’t unnecessarily use up our limited natural resources you selfish marshmallow roasting bigot.
5. Do not put the marshmallow on the end of your finger and stick it in the fire. Direct contact with fire will hurt like the dickens and Obamacare does not cover self inflicted burn wounds.
6. Be sure to bring enough marshmallows that will feed more than your camping party. After all, not everybody has the luxury of marshmallows and since you do, you must offer your fair share of free marshmallows to the homeless and the poor should they happen upon your campsite. Because that’s the right thing to do you selfish, over-consuming snack gobbler.
7. Be sure to register as a marshmallow roaster with the Forestry Department and have your registration ready if a forest ranger should happen by and demand to see it. If you are found roasting marshmallows without the proper registration you may be fined up to $200,000 and be required to do a minimum of 200 hours of community service.
8. Remember marshmallow roasting may cause forest fires, spew smoke into our already clogged air so you should reconsider roasting your dang marshmallows and roast what we think is better for you and have on our approved list of snacks you selfish junk food bigot.
9. In fact, instead of going camping, we prefer you reduce your carbon footprint by staying home, preparing a meal of tasty raw fruits and vegetables and watching the PBS special on reducing your carbon footprint. You’ll save gas, calories and possible fines and jail time too.
10. From all of us at the National Forestry Department, we wish you a safe, low calorie, non-carcinogenic, politically correct Labor Day Weekend.
Okay, just in case somebody out there doesn’t realize this is satire, I’m going to say, this is satire. However, no gubbermint workers were harmed in the writing and posting of this article.
Happy Labor Day Weekend folks. And save a s’more for me.
I love a good mystery. Especially a story with a twisty-turny plot that keeps me up at night and confounds me – but in a good way. But I don’t love mysteries that just confuse me though.
I read a book recently that had potential. It was a pretty decent read with interesting characters and a good premise. If it weren’t for one big mistake I probably would’ve recommended it to friends to read. But here’s the thing that happened. The writer tricked me.
Give the reader a fighting chance
There are certain tricks that writers can pull off:
- Heaping on misdirection
- Planting red herrings
- Creating a mystery within a mystery
- If she’s really good a writer can even make the hero the villain
But the clues have to be there. The reader has to have a fighting chance at connecting the dots and solving the puzzle. Or at the very least, have an aha moment when the killer is revealed.
But what a writer can’t do (no matter how good she is) is pull the villain out of her literary ass at the last second. A writer can’t take a minor character that appears in two or three brief scenes of no consequence and then spring it on the reader that this is the killer at the very end.
And yet that’s exactly what the writer did
Specifically, the writer created a character who was suspect to the reader who even announced he was a killer when first introduced into the story. Of course it was a play on words and not meant literally. And as the story continued, you couldn’t be sure if this character was a good guy or a bad guy. That’s fair. I didn’t know if he was a red herring or the real deal.
However, in the final ten pages our hero is faced with this questionable character. Believing him to be the killer, our hero is panicked and in fear for her life. Just as she is about to be killed by this character (who we are all now certain is the killer), he’s shot and the hero believes she’s been saved.
Phew, that was a close one. Except that it turns that the ‘real killer’ is the one who shot the ‘perceived killer.’
The real killer is a very minor character whose name I didn’t even remember. His motivation was an obsession with the hero. Apparently he went to incredible lengths (murder and mayhem) to get her attention. He didn’t get her attention, but he didn’t get the reader’s attention either. There was no foreshadowing, no clues, no inference that this character was anything but a background player carrying out the basic functions of a minor character. The revelation of this character being the killer was tantamount to a writer revealing that the clerk at the mini mart who sold the hero a diet coke in chapter seven is the villain. What the hell?????
No aha moment for the reader. No scanning back and realizing that yes, the clues were there and I should’ve seen it. No chance that I ever would’ve figured that out. Not because the writer was stealth, clever and fucking awesome at hiding the killer in plain sight. But because the writer flat-out tricked me. All for the sake of shock and plot twist.
Except it didn’t shock me. It pissed me off. It made me put the book in the reject pile. It insulted my intelligence. It made me think the writer didn’t care about me, her reader. Too bad for me and the writer.
Publish no books before their time
In our high-tech modern world, writers have more choices in publishing than ever before. That is potentially great for readers and writers. Indie authors are really making a splash and succeeding at gaining recognition and readership.
However, just because it’s easy to get a book published online via platforms like Amazon and Smashwords, doesn’t mean that an author should rush to publish a book. Whether your book is published through traditional or indie channels a writer still must go through the process of turning out a good book. If you self publish, then you must ensure the book is beta read, edited, proofread, tweaked, and polished til it shines. You must turn out the best book you possibly can. You have to put your readers first and your ambitions second. It’s great to be a published author but if what you publish is an ill-conceived story that turns readers off, what have you really accomplished?
Do yourself and your readers a favor – write a damn good book, make it the best you possibly can and then publish it.
How about you? Has a writer tricked you at the end? Did you love it or hate it? Is all fair in love and genre fiction or not?
This is a book I’ve been meaning to read for a long time. My bad, I should have gotten to it right away because I denied myself a good read for too long.
C Hope Clark’s break out novel, Lowcountry Bribe delivers
Clark is adept at creating a great sense of place and culture and does it with ease in Lowcountry Bribe. She provides us with spunky, quirky characters that are immediately likeable and recognizable. The reality of small town living is depicted well – everybody knows everybody and their business, wagging tongues ceaselessly work behind the scenes wreaking havoc, while local politicians manipulate circumstances to their own benefit. And our spunky kick-ass heroine quickly learns how terribly wrong things can go in her idyllic small town life.
Carolina Slade who goes by the handle ‘Slade’ manages a local Department of Agriculture office in a small southern town. She’s smart, ambitious and can spot horse pucky a mile away. When out of the blue she is offered a bribe by one of her farmer loan customers, she ruminates over whether to report it (as is the policy) or let sleeping dogs lie. Because she has a conscience and personal integrity she does the right thing and reports it – having no idea the can of worms she has opened.
Who knew that working in the local agricultural office could be so dangerous?
Instead of just reporting the bribe to the investigator who is sent to interview her, doing the paperwork and being done with it, Slade is pulled deeper and deeper into a web of deceit and lies. The investigator sent in to take the report convinces Slade to become part of a sting, implying there are bigger things at play than the bribe. Already distressed about her rocky marriage and office politics, Slade reluctantly goes along with the plan, despite misgivings. She is rewarded for doing the right thing by being punished severely from expected and unexpected sources. No good deed goes unpunished should be this gal’s mantra. The more she tries to get things wrapped up, the more they unravel and affect both her professional and personal life negatively. And her blossoming attraction to the investigator on the case, who has secrets of his own, only further confuses and complicates her life.
I don’t want to give away any spoilers, so I’ll leave it at this:
Slade is the kind of character you care about and would call a friend if she lived next door or down the street. Every step of the way you’re pulling for her and hoping she’s going to get out of the mess she’s gotten herself into. Lowcountry is a good read and I stayed up past my bedtime to finish it. Definitely made me want to read the next one. I recommend it to mystery fans looking for a good solid mystery. Available at Amazon and other book outlets.
The above is my opinion and I was neither paid, nor asked to write this review.
I’ve always been afraid of things that go bump in the night. In fact, it’s 4:30 a.m. and instead of dreaming of sugar plums or unicorns I’m awake because of a recurring dream where something not quite human has me trapped and is going to kill me if I don’t wake up. Like the devil, he has many faces and shapes but regardless of the assumed identity, it is the same creature-spirit that pursues me in my sleep and chases me back to the conscious world.
Possibly, I write mysteries because of my personal dream mystery? Anything is possible.
My analytical mind tells me I write mysteries because I love puzzles and I love justice. Hokey as it may be, I cheer when the bad guy gets what he deserves. I celebrate the demise of tyrants no matter how large or small their kingdoms. I never tire of good triumphing over evil. And yes, Virginia, there is good and there is evil. If you don’t think so, I suggest you read books by authors such as John Douglas and Ann Rule. Or just pick up a copy of In Cold Blood
Regardless of the psychobabble that abounds, there’s nothing that explains away the acts of evil that are perpetrated against the innocent man, woman or child. As I write this, children are being beheaded on the other side of the world, because of opposing religious beliefs. If that isn’t evil, than I don’t know what is. Can that be blamed on bad childhoods or brain disorders? Absolutely not. No moral relativism here, my friends.
And like the devil of my dreams, evil has many faces – an angelic adolescent, a cranky old man, a charming politician, a beautiful woman, a brilliant academic. You can never know them by their looks or position in life, you can only know them by their actions.
But why write about it? Good question.
It’s easy to understand why a writer would pen a romance because don’t we all want love in our lives? Or adventure because most of us live lives of routine and predictability. Who doesn’t fantasize about a larger than life experience? Science fiction and fantasy present worlds where the possibilities are endless and limited only by the imagination – what’s not to love there?
Solving a puzzle is a satisfying accomplishment and seeking justice is laudible. But murder and mayhem is not for sissies. It’s messy, often bloody and immerses you into the basest desires of men. Who wants to write about that? And why?
There are many reasons I suppose that a writer might choose mysteries. Maybe because there are so many mysteries in life that we cannot solve, that we cling to something concrete, that only requires we follow the clues and find the evidence to resolve it. Or that solving that mystery reassures us that the natural order of things have been restored and life is safe to live once again. Or maybe it’s something altogether different. Or maybe different for every mystery writer who ever lived.
For me, the appeal of writing mysteries is the way it makes your blood boil and your heart pound. The pursuit of the truth of that tiny universe of hunter versus killer (ironically) makes you feel so damned alive. Engages you. Seduces you. Keeps you up at night. It’s a slap in the face with a shovel handle. It’s the involuntary gasp and jump when a floor board creaks. It’s an adrenaline high unlike any other. And quite possibly addictive. And that goes for writer and reader alike.
No matter what else man is, he is a curious beast at heart. And nothing will drive a human being more nuts than an answer that eludes him. Particularly if the one posing the questions is adept at making it seem easy yet interesting. “Step into my web,” said the spider to the fly.
In America, mysteries became particularly popular during the Depression which was the heyday of pulp fiction. Mysteries were once looked upon as the poor man’s reading material (and perhaps they still are, genre fiction often isn’t taken seriously) – unlike literary fiction meant for the finer mind (ahem). But I reject that classification – to me mysteries:
- Engage the mind
- Make you think
- Teach you to solve problems
- Increase your alertness
- Sharpens your observatory skills
- And probably helps your endocrine system what with all that adrenaline pumping
What fine mind couldn’t use a good dose of the above? Got me.
Why do you read or write mysteries?
Next to romance, mystery novels are the most popular form of fiction among readers. Do you write mysteries? What drew you to the genre? Do you read mysteries? Have you called in sick to work so you could finish or stayed up all night just to finish one? Do you find the genre as addictive as I?
Feel free to agree with me, challenge me, debate me or enlighten me in the comments.
Is that weird? That I don’t write bad reviews? If a book is bad, then why wouldn’t I spread the news?
There are lots of reasons to write a good review, in my opinion:
- It spreads the word to readers anxious for another good book in their favorite genre
- It often helps an author become more visible to the public, especially new and indie authors
- A piece of good writing, like any piece of art should be shared
- It will encourage the author to write more books that you’re likely to love in the future
- It sends something positive into the world, and can’t we all use more positivity?
And you’d think that writing bad reviews would be helpful too. After all, shouldn’t we warn fellow readers not to waste their time? Maybe. But my observation is that bad reviews can be far more damaging than helpful. And truthfully, it’s more about the manner in which most bad reviews are written than it is the bad review itself. In my experience bad reviews tend to be:
- Snarky and filled with personal attacks of the author such as, name calling, insults to the writer’s intelligence, purely negative, with no redeeming qualities noted whatsoever
- Written personally, as though the author wrote the book to personally enrage or insult the reviewer
- Demeaning, bordering on bullying, as though the author has the life value of a bug and is undeserving of common courtesy
- Seems to intend to bring the author down for reasons known only to the reviewer
I’ve seen (far too often) bad review campaigns in which sometimes hundreds will attempt to destroy a book or author by posting countless bad and sometimes untrue reviews. Usually for reasons that have nothing to do with the book or quality of writing, but more the author’s ideology, the topic of the book, or motives other than to assess the merits (or lack thereof) of the book. In other words, I’ve seen bad reviews used as weapons.
Constructive Criticism vs Bad Reviews
Full disclosure: In case you didn’t know, I’m also an author and have a built-in sensitivity to reviews. Good or bad, a review has an effect. Authors put an enormous amount of energy and pieces of themselves into their books and to see all that torn down in five sentences can be discouraging – sometimes devastating. As noted above, bad review are often not helpful.
However, constructive criticism is another story and can be enormously helpful to the author and the reader. What is constructive criticism? In terms of a review, since you aren’t doing a critique, rather than saying it sucked you could say that it dragged because of ____ and perhaps the author could have _____. If you are going to criticize at least please be specific you’ll help the writer and future readers, because the author will pay attention to your comments and seek to improve, if you can mention something concrete that they can improve. Also, throw in a few things that did work, that you did like – your reviewer’s license won’t be revoked if you do and your review will probably be taken more seriously. I’ve read books that weren’t wonderful but I loved the characters, or the plot twists were so inventive and fresh that I forgave other sins. Maybe you didn’t like it overall, but did you like something? Mention it. The reader behind you in line might want to read it because of that very thing. Everybody has different tastes and preferences, right?
So, why won’t I write bad reviews?
There are several reasons I won’t write bad reviews and the following are just a few:
- There are already more than enough people willing to write them
- I don’t like to discourage writers (yes, that’s a bias)
- I’d rather spend my limited free time helping other writers, rather than hurting them
- Criticism, like family secrets should be shared selectively and discreetly
- It bums out readers and authors
- The world already has plenty of negativity without my adding to it
More full disclosure: I have been asked to review books and to provide an honest review and I have done so. However, if I found myself in a situation where I knew I couldn’t offer a somewhat positive review, then I would contact the author and tell them that I’d prefer to withdraw from writing a review.
What about you? Do you write negative reviews? If so, how do you approach that? What’s your take on bad reviews? Necessary? Unnecessary?
Feel free to share, debate or disagree in the comments.
All writers want reviews, preferably good ones. We ask for honest reviews but we secretly hope for good ones. Really good ones. It makes sense, we want to sell books. We want to feel like that year we spent fiddling with words, plot points and character arcs wasn’t wasted. But above all, we want to know that we spoke to you, the reader. That we resonated. That we connected. That we took you on an adventure. Provided entertainment, relief and escape. Because we don’t write novels for ourselves, we write them for you.
But…are book reviews believable?
Have you been fooled by a book review? I have
A few weeks ago I held my new Kindle in my hands, trembling with excitement and dying to download some books and get reading. I particularly wanted to read some indie authors and hopefully find a few new favorites. So, I popped onto Amazon and was completely overwhelmed by the selection. I suppose I could’ve asked around for recommendations but I wanted books right then.
I decided I could download a few freebies first. If I liked the author, then I’d pony up and buy everything they’d written. I scanned through trying to decide which books to download. I reduced the list by filtering for 4-star and up reviews. Still a daunting list, so I checked the blurbs. I found six books that interested me and I wanted to download and watched my Kindle screen as they magically appeared.
I was in heaven. Six brand new mysteries – total brain junk food and I was hungry. I opened the first book but the prologue was indecipherable and when I made it to the first chapter, the author had totally switched gears and was yammering on about a woman’s red fingernail. Next!
The next four books I couldn’t get past the first two or three pages. For various reasons – mind numbingly boring, passive writing, bad editing – in short, I couldn’t engage.
The fifth book showed promise. The author could write and there were passages that were pure brilliance. But there were so many stupid mistakes that could easily have been solved with research that it was astounding.
It was a crime novel and not do only I write mysteries myself, I’ve been reading them since I was eight years old. I have more than a passing understanding of forensics, investigation and procedure. And it was clear that this writer hadn’t researched any of those things or hadn’t retained any of the research. And the main character was a medical examiner.
I actually read the book to the end because I liked some of her characters and the story was clever. The shame of it was that a good editor could have helped to make it a top notch book. I almost fell off my bed when I saw at the end of the book that this author was touted as ‘best selling’ and had written 10 – 12 other books. I couldn’t imagine how this book had gotten five star reviews up the wazoo. Well, the reviews may have gotten me to read one of this author’s books but I won’t read another. So how helpful were those reviews to her in the long run?
You can buy anything on the Internet
We all love the Internet because we can find anything our little hearts desire in that nether cyber-world. Wonderful things on the Internet, also a lot of crap. The trick is in knowing the difference.
To be sure, if there’s something you want to buy, somebody out there is selling it.
Did you know that you can buy Twitter and Facebook followers? Is it a stretch to think that you could also buy reviews? Not really. I’ve seen ads offering money to write reviews, and they aren’t for the New Yorker. And every second there are thousands of online marketeers coming up with new ways to game the system. Because a lot of these marketeers think that marketing is about creating illusions, they don’t understand that marketing is about helping the consumer find what they’re looking for. You don’t have to trick anyone into buying anything if you’ve got what they need and want, right?
So the phrase, Buyer Beware, may apply doubly on the Internet.
How do you know if you can trust the reviews?
There’s no way to know for sure if a review can be trusted. There is always the matter of personal taste. Some readers may prefer a different style or not care about things that drive you nuts as a reader.
But there are a few things you can do to ascertain the veracity of the reviews:
- Read a few pages before you buy, many Amazon books allow you to read the first few pages to see if you like before purchasing.
- Check the author’s blog, website or Facebook page to see if you like their style of writing.
- Ask friends to recommend authors they like
- Download a free book from the author (if there is one) and sample their writing. Even if there isn’t a free book from the author, most authors offer a free chapter download or other stories for you to read.
In other words, don’t be like me and rush to download because your brain is hungry.
What’s your experience with book reviews? Helpful? Not helpful? How do you choose a book to read?
A few days ago a friend of mine took his own life. I’ve been on this planet for quite a while and though I’ve lost friends to death (the bastard) it’s never been to suicide.
My initial reaction was to reject the whole idea. I’d just seen him and talked to him. In fact, the day before he died. How could he possibly be dead? By his own hand?
The thoughts that quickly followed were of our last conversation. Had I said something wrong? Had he left me a clue I didn’t pick up on? Should I have given more signifigance to that last look? He had seemed a little quiet. A little distant. Should I have known what he was planning to do?
As the weekend progressed, we tried to learn more about what happened. But the police wouldn’t release information because none of us were the next of kin. We still know very little.
He wasn’t my best friend but he was a family friend. He sat at my table for every holiday meal for the last nine years.
He gave me advice about my car or latest do it yourself project.
He was thoughtful.
He was kind.
He always offered to help.
He had a good heart.
But though he liked to talk, he rarely spoke about himself in any personal way. He never shared secrets or confided. He was manly in that way – old school I guess you’d call it. Like a lot of men, he didn’t share his feelings.
I would have been happy to listen. But he never asked. I tried to encourage him. But he never said a word. I hope that he had someone who he could talk to. But my guess is that he didn’t.
And now he’s not talking to anyone.
And there’ll be an empty chair at my holiday table this year (and every year after). And I’ll miss him.
And I wish that he’d have talked to me or to someone. I wish that he’d have known that nobody would be happy about his choice. I wish he’d have known that those of us he left behind would have an empty place in their hearts that shouldn’t be empty.
I wish that he’d have known that life is worth living. That it’s a gift. It’s also a bitch. Life. It ain’t for sissies and that’s a fact.
I hope that if there is a next life that he’s happier there. That he finds a friend he can talk to. And that he doesn’t feel so awfully alone anymore.
And if anyone who is reading this is considering suicide, I ask you with all my heart to please reconsider. You matter to someone. They will care that you’re gone. They will be heartbroken that you’re gone. They will have a hole in their heart, where you should be. They will forever ask themselves why? And they’ll spend the rest of their lives never finding the answer.
While working on the current novel, I managed to line up a few beta readers. Total excitement. I’d never had beta readers before. What would they tell me? Would they make me cry? Would they stroke my ego. Would they love the book or hate it? Would I (in the end) acknowledge that I’m not creative after all and set up an affiliate website selling info products? Would they give me insight or would I be incited to violence. I just didn’t know.
After weeks of patiently waiting. Not really patient. Pretty much impatient. Actually very impatient. I finally heard back from one of my guys. The feed back was pretty nice but there were a few things I needed clarified, so I sent a follow up email with questions. Easy-peesey, right?
The answers were where the real nitty-gritty came out. It’s not that I disagreed with the answers, or even got upset. But they did present a problem. A major premise of the story, according to the beta, was not believable. Yikes!
So, I thought about it. I asked other people about it. I thought about it some more. I tried to come up with a way around it, because if I gave in, then well you know, rewrites.
I even had an eight part email fly back and forth between me and another reader about how it could be fixed. Oddly, I was the one playing devil’s advocate when the poor girl was fighting for my premise.
In the end, I decided the beta was right. It had to change. I had to change because you know, readers, they don’t like illogical things in their books. It’s a rule. I don’t know who wrote the rule, but I’m very sure it’s an official, carved in stone rule.
Real Life vs. Fictional Real Life
But even though I did agree with the beta it got me thinking. This rule about how fiction has to be logical. Has to be ‘believable’ when real life is anything but that. Let’s face it, real life is crazy, even on a good day. Nothing makes sense from the small (why is he driving that way?) to the huge (we’re going to war because of what?).
And examples of the illogic of life are everywhere:
- Beautiful women married to fat ugly men
- Pajama wearing, self-made millionaires who got rich selling ‘information’
- James Carville and Mary Matalin
- Animals rights activists who are against killing animals but for abortion
- Politicians get elected for criticizing their predecessors for the exact things they do once in office
- Reality TV
- How Facebook apparently kills brain cells
- Half the things you see (and can’t un-see) in emergency rooms
- Atheists using the phrase “Oh My God”
- Good people dying
- Bad people getting rich
- Chocolate cake with Diet Coke
- Running or bicycling along high traffic roads (with plenty of exhaust)
- Hard workers get fired
- In America dead people vote in every election
Plot point? What plot point?
In fiction every scene, every action, and every bit of dialogue has to move the plot forward. If it doesn’t, it’s cut. But does life follow plot points? Is there some logical path that life takes that leads us to the Promised Land or our dreams or goals? Hell no. Musicians slave away at bar and top-40 gigs all to get their big breaks, while some pimply faced 13 year old becomes a sensation because of a video posted on YouTube. Life is completely unconcerned with moving the story forward. Rather it pushes in every direction possible away from forward.
But even despite all this. Despite the fact that life is truly stranger than fiction I think I understand why fiction has to make sense, has to be logical and follow through to the end. It’s because we humans have to see something resolved. We have to see somebody reach their goal. We have to see somebody get their happily ever after. I mean, let’s face it, we don’t read so we can get reality, right? We read to escape. We read so we can become someone else for a while. Live their life, which is typically much more interesting than our own. We read to immerse ourselves into a risk free adventure. We read for relief from all that ails us.
When we’re done with our mini vacation from life we can return, perhaps a little calmer, maybe even a little wiser, and ready once again to deal with all the glorious illogic of real life.
Feel free to argue, agree, or contradict me in the comments.