By G. Robert Frazier

Regular readers of this blog know I sometimes like to share interesting stories I come across on the web. Some of these are about reading, some about writing. The more you know, as they say…

The Writer’s Life released its 100 Best Websites for Writers on Monday. The list is conveniently broken into seven categories, which is extremely helpful in finding just the site that suits you. Categories include: Blogging, entrepreneurship, creativity and craft, freelancing, marketing, publishing, and writing communities. I’m excited and a bit depressed to see so many different sites here that I have not visited before. Excited because I like discovering new things and reading new voices, especially if it can be helpful to me in anyway. Depressed because I really don’t have time to go exploring a bunch of new websites and keeping up with them. Hey, I’ve got writing to do!

CNBC posted an interesting article last Sunday about three publishers who are changing the comic book industry. And no, none of them is Marvel or DC. The article spotlights Dynamite, IDW and Boom publishers. I still collect comic books – a hobby I started in the late 1970s – but over the last decade my love of Marvel and DC comics has eroded. I no longer pick up books from either publication unless they are reprinted oldies that can fill gaps in my collection. I long ago grew tired of the endless crossovers, the over-proliferation of titles, rising prices, and deteriorating quality of work by the Big Two. My tastes have largely gone to the pulp side of comic books, as I follow new adventures of old favorites like The Shadow, Doc Savage, Tarzan, The Spirit, Conan, and Red Sonja. I also read Mars Attacks, James Bond, and The X-Files. I’ve always dreamed of someday writing comic books but never really attempted it, but thanks to a new Meetup group in town devoted to the comic book medium I’m actually in the process of fleshing out an idea and script for a graphic novel.

If you’re writing a memoir or true-life story, you might want to bookmark this Writer’s Digest guide to defamation and invasion of privacy. Guest blogger and attorney Amy Cook, who has focused on intellectual property and publishing law issues for more than 20 years, offers several constructive tips to help avoid potential lawsuits as a result of your writing that you’ll want to follow.

Texas Monthly featured an in-depth profile of author Joe R. Lansdale in its pages this past week. This was a really well-written story and an interesting look at the author. Lansdale’s Hap and Leonard series of books is about to debut on the small screen as a TV series March 2 on Sundance.

If you’re a writer, you are probably a procrastinator. Always putting off the writing for some other important project or another, like vacuuming the living room carpet, washing the dishes, reorganizing your book shelf, etc. The Atlantic has an interesting read about why writers are such procrastinators that you should read. Of course, the article was published in 2014 and I am just getting around to it.

Anyone watching the new BBC miniseries adaptation of War and Peace? You might want to read this story from The New Yorker. I’ve got a copy of War and Peace on my bookshelf but I’ve never read it. I’ve got the first couple of episodes of the miniseries on DVR to at least watch later.

Read any interesting articles about reading or writing lately? Share a link in the comments section.

by G. Robert Frazier

The name of this blog has been something of a misnomer, I realize that.

Most of what I post here are my book reviews or the occasional Around the Web column, wherein I include links to cool reads and resources either reading or writing related. I don’t actually post a lot about my own writing adventures, but I plan to change that.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not going to abandon my book reviews and my web roundups. I have good reasons for keeping those a part of this blog. (Or, at least I tell myself I do.)

For starters, writers are always told to read, read, read. Everything and anything. The more you read, the more it rubs off on your own writing. I sincerely believe that. What better way to study story structure, character arcs, effective description and dialogue than by learning from published authors?

It doesn’t hurt that I’ve always loved to read, whether it’s a mystery, a fantasy epic, or a cool sci-fi story. Put a book or a magazine in front of me and I’ll read it. My book review gigs – I currently read for Blogging for Books, Killer Nashville and BookPage – are a natural extension of that. They give me a chance to discover new authors I would not otherwise hear about. And, I don’t have to pay for the books. Win-win, as they say.

My web roundups are another extension of my reading habit. I scroll around various websites or web feeds each day for articles about the craft. Admittedly, I sometimes get carried away and spend too much time on the web. I’ve amassed a huge collection of bookmarked sites to read later when I have more time (as if!).

But, if I read something and am entertained or learn something useful, then I figure I may as well share it with my fellow writers. If nothing else, maybe it will save you time in searching for good reads and resources.

See what a great guy I am?

So, all of that said, it’s time to get to the gist of this post. (About time, right?). And that is, I plan to write more posts about my writing life: what I’m working on, what I’m struggling with, what’s working, etc.

Now, I’m not saying I’m going to turn this blog into another how-to site by any means. There are plenty of sites that already do that and do it quite well. However, if I come across a rule, if I learn a new technique that I can apply to my writing, then I’ll share. In some cases, I may disagree with said rule or piece of advice and I’ll wax not so eloquent about that. I may also occasionally dramatize said adventure in the form of a story, because, hey, it’ll be more fun that way.

I’m not going to pledge to post on certain days, either. Sorry. Such promises are too hard to keep when I’m already trying to meet my own self-imposed writing deadlines. I will post more often, but just don’t hold me to a schedule because, you know, life.

Bottom line: This blog is going to get a lot more interesting. Thanks for following and I hope you enjoy what’s to come.

 

 

by G. Robert Frazier

I peruse a lot of online articles about writing and reading every day in order to further educate myself on the craft as well as stay up on recent trends. Some of the articles also provide entertaining reads. Because I’m such a swell guy, I occasionally like to share what I’ve come across in this blog. Herewith are some writing-related missives to fill your head:

I came across this interesting blog from Annie Neugebauer, who attended last year’s World Horror Con and asked some of the biggest horror authors in the game what scares them.  I have to agree with Jack Ketchum that Alzheimer’s is a scary disease to contemplate, both for the person experiencing the disease and for family members. But from a writing standpoint, losing all my stories to some computer virus or hard drive crash would rank right up there. Thank God for the Cloud!

Speaking of horror, the Horror Writers Association released its 2015 Bram Stoker Awards Preliminary Ballot this week, with its members voting through February. Should be interesting to see which books rise to the top and eventually make their way to my never-ending reading list. Naturally Stephen King’s Bazaar of Bad Dreams made the list, as did Clive Barker’s latest Hellraiser opus, The Scarlet Gospels, two books I am looking forward to reading.

If horror’s not your thing, the 2016 Edgar Award nominations were also announced this week. Winners will be announced at the 70th Annual Edgar Awards Banquet, which will be held at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in New York City on April 28.

Electric Lit featured this look at the debate about including cultural pop references in your novel versus trying to set your novel in the eternal present.

Any short story writers reading this? Here are some inspiring quotes about the art of the short story to fuel your head.

One of the most common pieces of writing advice you’ll come across is to write every day. But in this article, author Daniel Jose Older takes issue with that advice and believes that what stops more people from writing than anything else is shame. “That creeping, nagging sense of ‘should be’, ‘should have been,’ and ‘if only I had…’ Shame, and the resulting paralysis, are what happen when the whole world drills into you that you should be writing every day and you’re not.” Older believes that “no one can tell you how to manage you’re writing process.” Everyone has to figure that out for themselves.

The Washington Post recently published an article about how used book stores are making a comeback. But author/blogger Kristen Lamb argues in a recent post that buying used essentially “robs” authors from getting paid. Salon responded that Lamb isn’t seeing the bigger picture of used book sales. As a writer, I can definitely see Lamb’s point. Writers don’t make much money as it is and for their work to be resold through used outlets with no remuneration doesn’t seem fair. But Salon’s point is also valid in that it could potentially lead someone to purchase other books in your canon. Personally, I buy new print books whenever I can as they are more presentable on my bookshelves, they don’t smell bad, and the pages are germ-free. But, from time to time, I will buy used, especially if a book is out of print or otherwise impossible to come by. I occasionally resell some books I’ve read at discounted prices on eBay, but I always try to sell them in a like new condition rather than one with bent covers, creases in the spine, or marked pages. The author might not be getting any kickback from the resale, but I don’t mind a few extra bucks going in my pocket here and there.

Finally, you know what they say about how writers should just type and not let their internal editor get in the way of their writing? That the best thing to do is just get your words down on paper as fast as you can? That a shitty first draft is to be expected? Well, here’s something else to consider: According to a research study at the University of Waterloo, if you want to improve the quality of your writing, type slower.

They may have a point, but I haven’t got time to type slower. I’ve got far too many ideas in my head that I’m trying to get down on paper. I’ll worry about prettifying my prose when I do my rewrites.

Garth Risk Hallberg, on the other hand, who wrote the giant 1,000-page City On Fire, maybe should have taken their advice to heart. If he had, maybe he could have avoided these truly cringe-worthy sentences that you just have to read to believe.

The Drifter

My first review for BookPage, Nicholas Petrie’s The Drifter, is now available to read. Check it out here.

Image  —  Posted: January 14, 2016 in book reviews, Books, Fiction, Literature, Novels, opinion, publishing, Reading, Review, suspense, thrillers, Uncategorized
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By G. Robert Frazier

Ethan Holt’s greatest accomplishment, winning the decathlon at the Olympics in his 20s, also proves to be his greatest undoing in Kim Powers’ thrilling, suspense-filled debut novelDig Two Graves (Tyrus Books).

Dig Two GravesNicknamed “Hercules” for pulling off the heroic task of being an Olympian, Ethan’s success on the field translates into a coveted teaching position at his ivy-school alma mater, where he’d just as soon as forget about the Olympics and get on with his life. His biggest challenge is simply relating to his teenage daughter, Skip, whose rebellious attitude tests him in more ways than any pole vault or long-distance jump ever could.

When Skip is kidnapped, Ethan realizes she is the most important thing in his life and he will do anything to get her back. To do so, however, means Ethan will have to push himself to his athletic, and academic, limits as he must solve a series of increasingly cryptic riddles and tasks at the behest of the kidnapper.

Read the rest of this review at Killer Nashville.

 

NOTE TO READERS: If you have been living under a rock and haven’t seen Star Wars: The Force Awakens yet, don’t read any farther!

 

The Force Awakens

 

by G. Robert Frazier

Star Wars: The Force Awakens has finally played itself out to hordes of fans and left many giddy with excitement and others equally as revolted. I loved the spectacle of the film and the nostalgia of it, but I happen to fall in the latter category overall. Star Wars was a mess and nothing more than a reboot of Episode IV.

For starters, if you have to explain away plot holes in follow-up news articles by the Hollywood Reporter and Entertainment Weekly, as has been the norm over the past couple of days, then the movie didn’t work. A movie should be able to establish time, place, characters, and situations without footnotes and PR flacks coming to the rescue.

I’ve recently read articles trying to explain how the Resistance came to be and how it relates to the new Galactic Senate, as well as an article in which JJ Abrams tries to explain R2’s arc. Whatever.

There are numerous unanswered questions, like who are the Knights of Ren, who are Rey’s parents, who is Lord Snope (Snoke? Snape? Snappy? Snoopy? Voldemort, whatever the hell his name is), how did Luke’s lightsaber wind up in a trunk in Maz Pinata’s cellar, etc., etc. All questions that will likely be answered in the sequels and which we can wait upon.

But aside from the many unanswered questions, the movie was filled with several unsatisfying scenes or lack of scenes altogether.

The biggest fail in the entire movie has to be the reaction to Han Solo’s death by General Leia. Instead of giving the “big walking carpet” Chewbacca a hug, Chewie walks right past Leia and Leia in turn hugs it out with Rey, whom she doesn’t even know and has apparently never met! I nudged my brother while watching that scene and said to him: “That’s just wrong.” Plenty of other folks have responded the same way. My Burbank brother also hated the scene, saying Abrams failed to note the historic significance of Han’s passing and a silent hug between Chewie and Leia would not have left a dry eye in the house.

Another major fail is that Luke, Han and Leia were never reunited on the screen together. That Luke couldn’t share one final adventure with Han, which is what everyone wanted, is a shame and a disgrace on the part of the writers. While the movie is obviously hellbent on introducing new characters for the next generation of movie-goers, it lost points with fans who have been longing for new adventures with old friends.

C-3P0 and R2-D2’s roles were absolutely wasteful. Neither did much of anything in the film and C-3P0 didn’t even sound like him. I don’t know what they did with his voice, but it just didn’t sound right. The stupidest thing he said was when he pointed out to Han that he had a red arm. It didn’t matter one iota to the movie’s plot and no one gave it a second thought. The audience isn’t color blind and I’m sure we all would have noticed without the “on the nose” dialogue from C-3P0. Observant fans will notice that he no longer has a silver leg below his right knee either, but I didn’t hear him telling Han he had replaced his leg with a gold one.

There were so many coincidences in this movie that it felt contrived and forced from the get-go. Rey just happens to rescue BB8; she pilots the Millennium Falcon towards a freighter that just happens to be piloted by Han Solo; they just happen to go to a planet where Luke’s lightsaber is hidden; etc., etc. If events don’t occur organically, that is naturally, then what you are left with is a script where things happen for the sake of plot convenience. It makes the whole thing less believable and, ultimately, less enjoyable.

In case you think I have entirely negative things to say about the movie, that’s not true. I found one gem to highlight: When Kylo Ren froze the blaster fire in midair! Not even Darth Vader froze laser bolts in midair! Now that was cool!

 

 

by G. Robert Frazier

It takes a top-notch writer to be able to capture the essence of a classic William Shakespeare play and present it in an entertaining way for a modern audience. Jeanette Winterson pulls off that feat with her new book, The Gap of Time (Hogarth, $25), an update of Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale.

The Gap of TimeWinterson is aptly able to spin a parallel tale of love, jealousy and forgiveness with a cast of characters stretching from London to the United States and back again. Her writing is at times lyrical while also whimsy, realizing the absurdity of the tale needs a bit of self-conscious ribbing in order to not be taken too seriously.

For the uninitiated, The Winter’s Tale presents the story of a king fueled by jealousy who believes his best friend and his wife have had an affair, leading to his daughter’s banishment and his wife’s death. By a series of coincidences, they are ultimately reunited. Winterson faithfully follows the script of Shakespeare’s play as she presents each act of her novel, beginning with the jealous rage of her main character Leo and following it up with his daughter Perdita’s discovery of her true identity in Act 2. She brings them together in the final act where they are able to forgive each other, as the gap of time since his initial outburst has given Leo time to reflect and Perdita a chance to grow on her own.

If that sounds a bit complicated and contrived, so be it. That’s Shakespeare. But, it works in an entertaining way.

Winterson weaves in enough humor, emotional angst, and unique characters to give the tale a fascinating life of its own. Nor are we confined to just one limited point of view, as Winterson gets into the heads of all the major characters to give us their perspective as the complicated plot unravels.

The story, as in the play, ends on a happy note as Leo is reunited with his daughter and she forgives him for abandoning her. As a modern day reader, however, I was longing for a more classic tragic outcome as Shakespeare popularized in his earlier plays. The happy ending in this story seemed almost as contrived as the coincidental nature of the plot.

Jeanette Winterson has written ten novels, children’s books, nonfiction works and screenplays. Perhaps it was fate that led her to craft The Gap o f Time.

I received this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for this review.

G. Robert Frazier is a writer living in La Vergne, TN. Follow him on Twitter @grfrazier23. 

by G. Robert Frazier

Every Crooked PathReading Every Crooked Path, the new novel by national bestselling author Steven James, is like peeling an onion: each layer of mystery pulled back reveals something more foul and evil than the last.

What starts as an investigation into a fatal stabbing takes a twisted turn when James’ recurring hero, FBI Special Agent Patrick Bowers, uncovers a child exploitation ring on the Dark Web, a cyber world hidden away from the regular internet, where anonymous clients barter and trade in sexually explicit photographs of minors for their perverted pleasure and the profit of a mysterious cadre of webmasters.

James hooks readers right from the start, as within the first few pages Bowers is attacked at the crime scene in a Manhattan high-rise. Bowers manages to fend off his attacker, but before he can get anything out of him, the man jumps off the balcony to his death, leaving behind a key and a cryptic clue to an even larger conspiracy.

Read the full review at Killer Nashville.

by G. Robert Frazier

The main course of Herman Koch’s The Dinner  is deliciously twisted, and so too is the dessert. After reading this compulsively addictive novel, you’ll want to make it the topic of conversation at your next dinner with family and, perhaps, for many meals to come.

The DinnerOriginally published in the Netherlands in 2009, Hogarth – an imprint of Crown Publishing – has served up a new Extra Libris printing of the New York Times bestseller for connoisseurs of fine reading, with a reader’s guide as well as a behind-the-scenes essay and conversation with Koch. And it’s worth every juicy morsel.

The Dinner introduces readers to a pair of brother-and-wife couples during the course of an evening meal at a fashionable restaurant in Amsterdam. But as the night wears on, the conversation – like the dinner itself – takes on a meatier tone. Masked beneath the gentle dab of a napkin and the fussy attentions of the restaurant’s manager (and his obtrusive pinky finger) is a family secret that threatens to spoil the couples’ friendship, their reputations, and very livelihoods.

Koch masterfully draws readers into the conversation, spoon-feeding tasty nuggets of information to us as if we were sitting at a nearby table eavesdropping for gossip. Much of the story takes place during a single evening, but Koch weaves in numerous flashbacks to deepen and enrich the characters’ feelings and relationships to each other like appetizers before the main meal.

The further we dig into the story the more we also learn of the narrator’s own secrets and the less trustworthy he becomes, adding a bit of spice and bitterness to the tale in the same sort of vein as Gone Girl’s unreliable narrators.

Ultimately, readers are left to chew on one insatiable question where it concerns not only the story’s main characters but in their own lives, and that is: how far would you go to protect your loved ones?

Koch is the author of eight novels and three short story collections. The Dinner has been published in twenty-five countries. Just desserts indeed.

I received this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for this honest review.

The Creeps

Back in the day you may recall there were these really cool black and white horror comics magazines by the names of Creepy and Eerie. Well, imagine my surprise when I came across a new black and white horror comic magazine at Barnes & Noble called The Creeps! And, better yet, the stories and art are written by some of the original Warren writers and artists! Naturally, I had to order the back issues I’d missed and now I have all four issues to date. Yes, comics fans know that Dark Horse publishes modern-day versions of Creepy and Eerie in standard comic book size, albeit on slick paper. But nothing compares to the gritty feel of the old magazine pages. The Creeps gets it right and I have to say this is the most excited I’ve been about comics in years! Go to Barnes & Noble now. Buy your own copy of The Creeps. Seriously.