Category Archives: story

Review: House Of Cards Book

 

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“All members of Cabinet are referred to as Right Honorable Gentlemen. There are only three things wrong with such a title…” – Michael Dobbs, House of Cards

I must admit, like most Americans, I hadn’t heard of Michael Dobbs or his award winning book series until Netflix released their take on the trilogy starring Kevin Spacey. When I first picked up the book and opened to the very first page, I was hooked. After seeing Netflix’s House Of Cards, I was pleasantly surprised to find it different. Much of the same characters are there but with a different twist.

Unlike the TV show, the book opens with Mattie (or Zoe to those familiar with the show) and not Francis. The story is set in the UK and deals with a Chief Whip in the British government. After not receiving the deal he’d been promised by the current Prime Minister, he decides to abandon all loyalty and punish those who’d betrayed him. He blackmails the weak, manipulates those around him, uses the media and even resorts to murder. His personality is snobbery mixed with charm and several pounds of cunning intelligence. By the end, two key characters are killed off and a Prime Minister replaced with Francis himself.

If you’re thinking this might be like the TV show, you’ll be either surprised or disappointed.

Key Differences

American Politics vs. British
The British government is a whole different breed an the American establishment. If you have no idea how the British government works, you won’t need to worry because this book won’t confuse. At first, I was bit a lost but after a few chapters I found my way. In the TV show, Frank is terribly liberal but with no ideology whereas Francis is a conservative with high expectations of reward.

Mattie vs. Zoe
In the show, I thought Zoe was a bit stupid and very vane. Mattie possesses more of a conscious and stronger morals. Zoe, other on the hand, is willing to do what it takes to get what she needs. For example, using her body to manipulate Frank.

Claire Underwood vs Elizabeth
In the show, I absolutely loved Claire. I very much missed her absence in the book. Francis is married to a woman with almost the same personality and conspiratorial evilness as Claire but she doesn’t take much part in the story. It isn’t until the second book that we see more of her.

Then vs. Now
When the book was published in the 1980’s, politics and technology was different. Things vastly changed when the web connected everyone and the middle east became more a threat. In the book, the Soviet Union is mentioned whereas in the show education is a key part.

I could go on with the list but I believe most of you can see how the story varies from the show. Which of course it would. One is British and written in the 1980’s and the second is American and filmed today. I have started reading the second book and will report on it soon.

Review: The Indispensable Heroes of Guards! GuardS

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When a book dedicates itself to fantasy’s expendable Red Shirt Army with the witticism of a P.G. Wodehouse novel, you know you hold a diamond. When I given Terry Pratchett’s Guards! Guards! to read, I was a little weary to give it a try. The dull artwork of a strange looking dragon on its cover wasn’t eye catching. The summary on the back was about as appealing as a very moldy ham and egg sandwich. But, encouraged by my friend’s enthusiasm, I trudged on like a good soldier and opened the book.

Six words in, I knew I was infected.

Guards! Guards! is full of clever sentences that get right under your skin. It opens in a fictional place of Terry Pratchett’s own imagination called Discworld. Our unlikely heroes are the Night Watchmen of Ankh-Morpork who dedicate themselves to alcoholism and never running too fast lest they actually catch a criminal. It’s these four characters Vimes, Colon, Nobbs and Carrot drew me closer to the pages. I felt as though I were a part of their crew.

The plot begins when an incompetent secret brotherhood schemes to replace the Patrician of Ankh-Morpork with a puppet king of their own. In order to accomplish their evil deed, they summon a dragon using a stolen magical book and that’s when the mayhem starts. It’s up to Captain Vimes of the Night Watch and his rag-tag team to stop this dragon and restore order. My favorite character out of this crew was Carrot. Having lived his entire life in the underground caverns of the dwarves, Carrot discovers a whole new world when he steps foot into Ankh-Morpork. He volunteers with the Night Watch which we are told nobody would ever think of doing. His naive yet bold nature reminds me of myself when I moved out of my parents’ house and discovered the life of a city girl.

The voice and style of Guards! Guards! is marinated in Pratchett’s love of good British farce. A ridiculous cast of characters find themselves tangled in improbable scenarios and complications. The heroes and villains are silly enough for us not to take seriously yet so thoroughly well done they seem almost tangible. Our antagonist, the Supreme Grand Master, is a whimsical parody of an egotistical maniac driven by his hatred of humanity’s stupidity. Lady Ramkin, a potential love interest of our protagonist Captain Vimes, is overweight, hazardously confident and sharply eccentric with her fondness for dragons. The story is full of action and spotted here and there by extreme cuteness such as the scenes with the swamp dragons. Also, hidden in the text is a treasure trove of references to Hollywood films.

I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who wishes a great read.

Writing Something Of An Addiction

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Writing can be an addiction. Or is that just me?

Lately, I’ve discovered that I turn into Grumpy Cat if I don’t get at least some writing done on any given day. I’ll get cranky like I do when I don’t get my coffee. There’s nothing more exciting than a blank page. It has an infinite number of possibilities. As each letter is written on the blank space, that billion of possibilities narrows down to millions and soon to thousands. It becomes grounded and turns into a thought or idea.

One of the most thrilling parts of writing is playing God. I can create a life and I can take a life. All without consequence. I can be like I’ll make this a really awesome character. Everyone will love him. Then, I’ll kill him. And everyone will mourn him. I believe Joss Whedon is the best at creating beloved characters and then wrenching our very hearts out as we see that character’s demise. Other fun parts of writing is throwing those nasty twists in. Jodie seems to be just like every other girl. Or…is she?

My favorite twist in writing is when you discover that so-and-so wasn’t your best friend after all. When the narrator becomes the villain in the end. However, the problem with this type of plot is its difficulty. When done right, it creates for a stunning novel. When done wrong, it’s so terrible that it instantly becomes a classic joke. One novel I recently read which attempted to fool its audience by pretending the narrator to be good is Moriarty by an author whose name eludes me. At the end, I didn’t believe the narrator could be the evil one. It just felt as if the author had decided it on a whim. On the positive side, one of the best books I’ve read where this plot twist is done great is Gone Girl. I won’t spoil any of the particulars because that happens to be a fabulous book.

Writing, you see… Is something marvelous. Another beautiful part to creating a good story is seeing the characters come alive. At times, it almost feels as if they’re saying the words, not you. It’s as if they’re making the story and you’re only there to narrate. Storytelling, the fact that you get to be god… It’s something of an addiction.

Fake It Til You Make It

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Recently, I went to a Writers Conference and pitched my book to 2 editors and 2 publishers. 3 of them liked my pitch so well they invited me to send them an email. That was two weeks ago and I still haven’t sent them a single email. You can look at me in shock and wonder why I haven’t jumped furiously at such an amazing opportunity. I mean, I have 3 people interested in publishing my book!

The reason for my procrastination is simple. My book isn’t done.

I’ve been telling people that, yes, my book is indeed finished. The editors didn’t ask if my book was finished. They’d just assumed. For if they’d asked, I would have looked them in the eye and said No. For months, I’ve been saying, “Yes, my book is done. I just need to retweak some things.” Well, I’ve been retweaking a lot. And recently I’ve made some startling discoveries.

I discovered my main character is really my secondary character and my second character is really my main. I’m redoing my book. Not rewriting the entire thing completely from scratch. HAHA. No. That’d be insane. But I’m pretty nearly doing that. I’m rewriting a shit load of it. I’d say 70%.

I know, this time, my book is perfect. The idea and plot are solid. I’ve pitched my book to many friends, people I don’t know, and colleagues and have gotten great feedback. Everyone likes the idea. I discovered my audience can better connect with my secondary character than my originally main character. I discovered a whole new world with my secondary character who is now my main.

But… I still need to send my stuff to the editors. I won’t finish my book in a week. That’s a ludicrous hope. The editors wanted the first three chapters of my book. Done. To perfection, I might add. They wanted a synopsis as well. Not done. To imperfection. Terrible. The Synopsis.

I have the main idea and bare bones of my book down. I know exactly what it’s about, who all the main playing characters, the in’s-and-out’s of the plot, and how it’s going to end. The part I don’t have are the holes in between. There some spots I’m still trying to sort through and figure out. Which makes writing a synopsis a little difficult. I can’t tell any editor about my book if I don’t know Everything about it.

I’ve sat down and plotted out main ideas and what I want to happen. But I know that I won’t figure everything out until I sit down and actually start writing. Because that’s how I figure things out. I usually outline my book very simply then fill in and connect the dots as I write. This time, though, I’m trying to write a synopsis before I even start writing. I have the damn synopsis started but then it reaches a certain point and stops. It’s as if I’ve come to a cliff. I can see just beyond the cliff to the other side but I can’t see how to cross the cliff.

Since I know I won’t be able to figure everything out in a week, I’ve decided to bullshit it. I’m going to write a synopsis and try to keep it somewhat close to what I want my book to be about. The rest… I’ll make up. The editors won’t see my stuff until three months later because they’re extremely busy. Meanwhile during that time, I’ll be writing and figuring out my book. When they finally do get back to me, I’ll hopefully have a concise and clear understanding of my story. I’ll write a new synopsis and send them it with a note saying I’ve changed my story a bit.

I’m sure others have been in the same predicament I’m currently in. I’ve been told countless times not to approach a publisher/editor unless my book is finished. But I did it anyways. Sometimes you’ve got to fake it until you make it. I’m going to cross my fingers and hope all goes well.

Dearest Pete

Memories and Characters

Over the length of this writing adventure that my book has taken me on, I’ve been startled to discover a character taking over the book. When I first began writing this thriller, Dana Marie was my main character. Her bold, energetic, and forever inquisitive personality leaped off the pages and demanded to be center stage. But gradually another character stepped before her and placed himself in the spotlight. Curiously enough, Dana has allowed him the spot.

Pete Watson. In many ways he hasn’t and has changed. His inner core; the goodness and honesty hasn’t changed. It’s his courage and strength that has. Before, he was the unwitting boyfriend of a villainess. He had the courage of a mouse. By the end of my book, the little mouse eventually stood up for himself but with the help of Dana. Without her help, he’d never be able to stand.

But now. Pete has changed. He is no longer the timid little mouse. He can stand on his own two feet. He’s taken the stage away from Dana without a fight or begging. She’s allowed him the attention because she knows he deserves it. After all, he is the hero. His and Dana’s friendship has expanded as well. Their relationship is stronger and has more depth that before.

I realize those reading this don’t have the faintest what I’m talking about. You haven’t read my book. You don’t know my characters. But hopefully you will.

I’ve read countless times posts and articles written by other authors about characters in their books. They mention how a smaller, lesser character came out from the shadows to be the main character. They’d talk about how surprised they were by a characters actions or true nature. When I read these things, I’d laugh. How silly writers are! Would be my exact thought. They talk about their characters as if they’re real. They make it sound like the character does the writing or telling of the story. They make it sound like they didn’t write the books themselves but the characters.

A famous writer once said, characters tell the story. Writers are only the interpreter. I never quite understood this until I saw for myself. Until I realized how true it is. When I started out with this book, I had a certain idea for it. I had a vision for how it would end up. Well, the original vision is far from what it’s turned out to be. Life seems to be exactly the same. You start off walking on one path in one direction. And mysteriously you wind up elsewhere!

It’s absolutely breathtaking seeing a story unfold before your eyes. Your story. It’s thrilling to hear your characters discussed in public. I’ve only had this a few times after my friends finished reading my manuscript. The characters in your book may be imaginary but they are real. They’re real as you and me. A good book draws you in by how human the characters feel. Your job as the writer is to make them feel real to the reader. Allow them to leap off the page. I really can’t stress how crazy this adventure of writing has been for me so far.