Thursday, August 27, 2009

Apples to Apples

Okay-- I know it's not technically a book, but I can't resist talking about Apples to Apples,. This is the most fun game I have ever played. You need at least 3 people to play. The box says up to ten, but it seems infinite. Each player is dealt 7 red cards which contain nouns, such as Helen Keller, Nuclear Holocaust or The Midwest. Players take turns turning over a green card which will have an adjective such as Naive, Angry or Powerful on it. All the players select the card which they think most closely match the green card. The person who flipped the green card that turn gets to judge the match. Sounds kind of dry there, but it really gets fun. Especially if you know the other players well and know the way they think. It's also cool because the judging is completely arbitrary so it's fun to see the logic behind the selections.

Friday, August 21, 2009

I am White Ninja and You are my Pickle Sidekick

I am White Ninja and You are my Pickle Sidekick by Scott Bevan is one of the funniest books I have ever read. Pick it up. You will laugh.

It's really kind of twisted, but if your humor is a bit "off" you will like it.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Writer's Digest

This is what I am reading at the moment, so I have put my book aside. Writer's Digest is a great source for writers of all genres and they have been for 90 years now.

There is advice on technique, submissions, how to market your work and what genres are currently hot.

I loved a quote that I saw in this month's issue:

"Write, finish what you write and send what you write to an editor. Everything else is just gravy." -- Cory Doctorow

Monday, August 10, 2009

Lawrence Block's Compelling Reluctant Detectives

Lawrence Block is probably my favorite mystery writer. He has five or six different series. The main ones feature Matt Scudder and Bernie Rhodenbarr. Rhodenbarr is a burgler/bookstore owner who has a habit of stumbling into crime scenes in the course of his moonlighting activities. He usually has to solve the crimes to throw suspicion off himself. He has an uneasy alliance with Ray Kirshmann, local corrupt cop, who sometimes helps, sometimes hinders Bernie.

Matt Scudder is a tortured soul. He is an alcoholic and a former cop who has never quite forgiven himself for the death of a young girl who was caught in his crossfire. He solves crimes as penance and tithes his earnings by dropping his percentage into the poor box of one of the many NYC churches he comes across, most often in search of an AA meeting.

Block has been writing since the fifties. I didn't discover him until the eighties, but I soom became a voracious fan. I was tickled when I moved to Buffalo in 1994 and found that he was a native son. Surprising, since his novels are steeped in NYC, but he spent pretty much all of his adult life there.

He is also generous with fellow writers, with a handful of books on writing and frequent speaking engagements.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Series Books: Familiar friends

Why are book series so popular? Maybe it's because they are character driven. The author creates a hero we love and we keep going back for more.

Here are a few of my favorites:

Lawrence Block's Bernie Rhodenbarr
Sue Grafton's Kinsey Milhone
Robert B Parker's Spenser
Diane Mott Davison's Goldy Schulz

Once we have someone to ride along with, we just need a roller coaster to ride. That's where story and plot come in. The plot follows a familiar, but not predictable arc which keeps us coming back for more.

Although these books are sequential, it is possible to dive into them at any book and still be able to follow the story.

This is unlike series like Twilight, Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings, which isn't so much a series as it is one enormous story that is broken up into manageable book lengths.

More on why I love these books to come.