reading and writing male characters

This post is 14 years old.

Someone asked in a comment how reading science fiction and crime novels contributes (if at all) to my own writing. It’s a good question, but I think the answer is fairly simple.

It seems that people who write well are people who read a lot. I don’t know anybody who writes for a living who doesn’t need to read constantly. It’s like… gassing up the car, you gotta have fuel to tell stories. Now this might seem like I’m saying that you take stories from elsewhere, but that’s not what I mean at all.

It has more to do with the fact that storytelling is a community endeavor, something that can’t exist in solitude. If you tell stories you have to listen to them too, or your ear for the rhythms starts to deteriorate.

So I read widely, all kinds of fiction and non-fiction. Pretty much across genres. There are those corners of the storytelling universe where I don’t go often (I’m not a big fan of traditional whodunnits, for example). But I love the needle sharp prose of quality crime fiction, the tight plotting, the strong characterizations (when it’s well done, of course). I read Dennis Lehane, John Sandford, Stephen Hunter (he’s got a new _Earl Swagger_ novel coming out, be still my heart), Lee Child, Andrew Vachss and half a dozen more writers in this genre with great enthusiasm.

Dan Simmon‘s Hardcase and its sequel, Hard Freeze, typify why I like this kind of story: the opening chapter is hair raising, and I defy any reader to put down the book once Joe Kurtz has made his first move. _Here’s a hint:_ it involves, first, a garbage disposal and second, a third story window.

As a writer, I often find it hard to just read for enjoyment. I’m too busy observing how the author did one thing or another, thinking about process and alternates and word choices. If a book draws me in to the point where I forget to pay attention to those details, then the story really works for me. Then I read it a first time for story and a second time in order to observe process. This is especially true when I’m reading crime fiction, because the characterization of the kind of man who populates these stories (hard, hardened, cynical, often sad, almost always with a big simmering lake of anger right at the surface) is a challenge for me in my own work. I think, huh, that’s interesting, how Joe or John or Reacher reacts to this; I wouldn’t have gone there first thing.

So reading outside my genre, reading widely, is an important part of my process. Science fiction feeds into my work in a different way; I’ll try to talk about that sometime soon.

Today I did do some writing of my own. There’s a new male character who shows up for the first time in Thunder at Twilight (I’m fully aware that you haven’t read it yet, I won’t give much away here, don’t worry). He’s a career soldier in the British army, a veteran of the Napoleonic wars in Spain, with some twists that are just being revealed to me as he has jumped feet first into the beginning of Queen of Swords. Uninvited, I might add. There he was, wanting to tell the opening scene from his point of view, so now I’m following him around while he observes, and talks to himself, and tries to convince himself that he’s not neck deep in something that’s threatening to drown him.

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moving on

This post is 14 years old.

I’ve been struggling to get this weblog into shape, which meant changing software, which meant a bit of a wait and a lot of experimentation… but here it is, finally, and I believe the format will stay this way. Note there is now room for comments, if you’d like to make them. Play nice.

Now that I’ve got this blog running the way I want it too, I will try to write a little tomorrow about Queen of Swords and where I am in the creative process.

Oh and, Farscape was on tonight. The episode from season four: A Prefect Murder. On a ten point scale I’d rate this episode a six, except it focuses a great deal on Aeryn, so it gets an extra point for a total of seven. It did move the overall story arc along, especially regarding the relationship between the main characters.

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Thunder at Twilight

This post is 14 years old.

I finished the fourth novel in the Wilderness series at the end of August and it arrived on my editor’s desk at Bantam on September 1. In total: 1,200 manuscript pages. Yeeehah! It always feels like giving birth, but then you have to wait a couple weeks until the doctor tells you about the infant’s health. Or name. I really want to hold onto my original title this time: Thunder at Twilight.

So Wendy (my editor) calls this morning and… she’s ecstatic. Very, very happy, which makes me very, very relieved. Apparently Nita Taublin (the publisher) loves it too, and I had a long talk with my agent Jill this morning, who was also in raptures… some part of me just refuses to believe them, but the biggest part is just plain happy to know that it looks as though I pulled it off, yet again. Now I should go write a little (got the first chapter on the next one started) but I’m kinda jumpy after those phone calls.

john-aeryn2.jpgBy the way: Last night’s episode of Farscape was pretty damn good. I Shrink Therefore I Am, from season four. Shouldn’t you be running out to the video store to rent the Premiere, just to see what I’ve been raving about?

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blasphemy, Italian style

First of all, Farscape is in fact on television tonight, on the Sci-Fi channel at midnight (east coast) and at nine (west coast). The folks at Sci-Fi seems to get great enjoyment out of frustrating the faithful, and yet we still manage to find Farscape no matter where they hide it.Tune in.Now, something I’ve been wanting to say for years…. The movie attained cult status long ago. Men love to quote from it; whole movie plots have been built around that fact (You’ve Got Mail is a case in point)…. And what, I want to know, what Coppola thinking when he cast Diane Keaton as Kay Adams?Granted, this movie was made when Keaton was at the top of her boxoffice arc, but please.

This post is 14 years old.
[asa book]B0001NBNB6[/asa] First of all, Farscape is in fact on television tonight, on the Sci-Fi channel at midnight (east coast) and at nine (west coast). The folks at Sci-Fi seems to get great enjoyment out of frustrating the faithful, and yet we still manage to find Farscape no matter where they hide it.
Tune in.

Now, something I’ve been wanting to say for years. Have said many times to friends. This is about The Godfather
(not the novel; I’ll say something about that someplace else). The movie attained cult status long ago. Men love to quote from it; whole movie plots have been built around that fact (You’ve Got Mail is a case in point). Poke the average Joe on the street and he spits out ‘take the cannoli. leave the gun’. Italian Americans, especially men, adore this movie. I won’t go into the psychology behind that, because it’s exhausting.

But here’s what I want to say: in two crucial cases, the movie was horrendously miscast. You know it’s true. Think about it. Think about the Corleone brothers sitting around the table at
a birthday party. Look at these actors. James Caan, tall and blond and curly haired, as the brother of Al Pacino and John Cazale? Uh-huh, not unless Mama Corleone had some secrets of her own.

Personally I think they would have been much better off giving Sonny’s part to my great uncle Luigi Alfonso — now that’s Italian.

[asa book]B000NHG7BG[/asa] And what, I want to know, what Coppola thinking when he cast Diane Keaton as Kay Adams? Granted, this movie was made when Keaton was at the top of her boxoffice arc, but please. One thing I know about Italian men (and I grew up surrounded by them) — they don’t marry women who are taller than they are. Nope. No way. The combination of James Caan and Diane Keaton are flaws that I just can’t get over watching this movie.

Instead of The Godfather, try Al Pacino as Lefty Ruggerio in Donnie Brasco. Now that’s a well told story.

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memoir: about this series

This post is 14 years old.

This weblog is really big and messy, and every once in a while I have to dive in to try to beat back the chaos. Clean up the database, do a full backup, check to make sure things are working when you click on them.

I’ve gone through the memoir series to whip things into shape, and as I was doing that, I realized that somebody skimming through posts might not realize what this series is supposed to be. So, to clarify:

There are two kinds of posts under memoir: the ongoing (and very slow) attempt to dissect my childhood (these are not light reading, please be warned), and general anecedotes (generally funnier) — some from my childhood, some current day.  And they are in no order at all, because the software won’t let me do what I want. Let me remind you:

I’m CDO

That’s like OCD

Except in alphabetical order

The way it should be.

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