Tag 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.

Broken Bicycle

Bicycle

Have you ever tried taking a bicycle apart? Or a car or plane or something that would be a huge project to put back together?

I was sick for the past week. I took work off. I did nothing but lay in bed. I hated every minute of it. I had a nasty cold – the worst cold I’ve had in a long time. I didn’t think about my book for a week. I put it out of my thoughts entirely. I still have the cold, but I’m getting over it slowly.

Today, I started to work on it. But then stopped. I feel lost all of a sudden. As if, I’d taken apart a bicycle and couldn’t figure out how to put it back together. All the pieces lay surrounding me. I just don’t know what to do exactly.

The entire book, everything… It’s finished and it’s isn’t. I know what I want to have happen. I have the characters pretty much figured out. I have a ton of parts already written. It’s just figuring out the finer details and how to connect the dots.

Oh boy… It feels like it’s going to be the long haul.

Of Stale Baguettes and Black Lagoons

Stale Baguette

There are parts of my book I’m totally satisfied with. These parts are the fresh tidbits I’ve been adding. The scenes I’m very dissatisfied with are the ones I’ve written long ago. They feel very stale to me like an ancient baguette and probably because I’ve read them over a million times. I come to write these scenes and edit them… And I find myself eternally stuck. I absolutely hate it.

What will I ever do?

I’ll probably end up printing them off and try different ways of rewriting the parts. I just don’t know how to go about doing it. I mean to say, I don’t know what I should change or keep. It feels like I’m slowly beginning to sink into a black lagoon. I need to quickly find my way out of this swampy No Man’s Land.

The Fascination of Drying Paint

Staring Out A Window

I’m stuck on a scene… Or rather I should say I’m stuck on several scenes and probably the rest of my book.

The problem isn’t that I don’t where to take the scene. The problem is that I feel as if my engine has been used up. As though there is no gas left in the tank. This is a horrible, awful, terrible feeling if you happen to be on a deadline and constantly trying to push yourself to write more.

My book is due to be published… Well, the editors should be getting back to me by November-ish. At which time I have to send them my entire book in its completed state. It’s current state is about eight chapters out of thirty. I’ve a lot of material written from previous drafts. Some of it I’ve been using and it’s helped.

My favorite feeling in the world is that sense of fire you get from inspiration. The flame that burns and burns and propels you to write a really, really good piece. It’s as if the words themselves are coming from some celestial place in the universe. A place of divine inspiration. A place that happens… Not as often as we’d like.

The worst feeling is the moment you start writing and it’s like watching paint dry. Each sentence, description, everything sounds absolutely stark. Forced. I’ve tried everything to bring my words to life this morning. I was completely productive and cleaned. I showered. I did chores. I went for a jog. I came home feeling refreshed and ready to fight the world. But then, I get on here and start typing. The words won’t obey me. My creativity is kaput.

Sometimes, when I feel like this I’ll stick a really good soundtrack on that’s full of energy. A few times it has worked and vitalized my writing. This time however… I’m still watching paint dry.

Shooting Blanks

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I’m trying to finish up a chapter. I know what should be in the chapter but I can’t find the sentences at the moment to do so. I’m on a very tight deadline for my book. In two months, maybe less.. I need it done. Which is a scary thought considering how little I have actually done. Today was a long day at work and my eyelids feel droopy. Half of me is considering brewing some coffee and chugging a cup of dark espresso. While on the other hand, I really just want to crash.

It’s interesting how movies and books are so BS. In TV shows or films, the hero of the story will chug a cup of coffee while working hard on the project that will save the world. Even though he has work in the morning and most likely get no sleep… That doesn’t faze our hero. He runs on zero sleep and gallons of coffee. If only!

There are actually people in this world who only need 4 hours of sleep. These people astound me. I envy them. All the things I could do with the extra time. I once knew someone like that. She’d fall asleep around midnight and wake up at 4am refreshed. She didn’t have work until 8am and would use the free time to teach herself coding.

Lately, I’ve been drinking way too much coffee. It’s not healthy and I’m trying to lay off. I’d usually drink it to stimulate my mind which helps me to write. But then, I’d have difficulty sleeping and would wake up all groggy. Not fun. Coffee and Cigarettes. The addictions of the world.

Tonight, instead of writing. I’m on here shooting blanks. The idea of coffee is a deadly temptation.

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.

Adding Twists After Twist Like A Pretzel

“I bet you didn’t see this twist.” – Officer X

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I’ve been working on plot and character development for my book. It’s been a very rugged road so far with many bumps, unexpected hurdles, and hair pulling moments. I can honestly say I haven’t enjoyed, but the moment it’s published and people say they love it… That moment will make up for it all. I’m counting the days til that day.

Twists are a lovely thing in a story. They make you go.. “oh! I never saw that coming!” or “Oh my gosh! That’s crazy!” They make the story ten times better. They make you want to go and read everything else by the author. I love twists.

One of my favorite storytellers who uses twists like a pro is Christopher Nolan. He isn’t an author exactly but he’s a great storyteller. I love the twists he adds to every one of his movies. Inception has to be by far my favorite for its uniqueness. The idea of going into someone else’s dreams. The idea of living in a dream. It’s intriguing and original.

And here I am going through my book and trying to Christopher Nolan it up. Add spice. It’s got some spice. And I think it’s an amazing story with the right amount of suspense and action. But my dilemma is how much spice should I add before it becomes too spicy? In other words, how many twists can I add to my story before it becomes ridiculous.

Oh by the way, he’s really the bad guy. And that other guy works for SpaceX. And that other guy wants to become president. And the real bad guy isn’t really bad but good. And there’s some random character I forgot to tell you about. He kills the entire world. The end.

Twists obviously can’t come out of the blue like some random object. Hints need to be given discreetly. The asteroid doesn’t just randomly hit Earth one day. It comes hurtling through space into our orbit. NASA freaks out. The government freaks out. Newspapers freak out. People freak out. Tension is built. Soon the question, “Will it hit Earth?” becomes “When will it hit Earth and where?” And cities become evacuated and people start going to church. Twists are like asteroids. They need to be built up but of course hidden. Like no one expects an asteroid to come hurtling through space.

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In Interstellar, Christopher Nolan does a famously well job of hiding the fact that Cooper is the one behind the bookcase. That Cooper is the one trying to communicate with Murphy, not aliens. He hides some hints in plain sight that you don’t expect. Such as the interview with Murphy when she’s old. The spacecraft that Cooper randomly finds on the ground. The sand particles forming lines on the floor. And S.T.A.Y.

I’m trying to figure out whether or not I should add more to my book. That’s the big question for me. I’ve decided that I should finish the rewrite and then worry about this. Which is probably a good idea. I don’t want to jump the gun. Especially when I haven’t even finished yet.