Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Lottery, by Patricia Wood

Ok, folks out there in Blog O Land, I have finished Patricia Wood’s book, Lottery. In looking over some of the comments other people have made, I notice they are all trying to give you reasons why you should read this book. I figured why follow along, right? So, I’m going to let all those other folks follow the leader, while I do something completely different and give y'all 10 reasons why you shouldn’t read it.

Ready? Ok, here we go…

1. If you absolutely can’t stand pure, fluid, prose – you know the kind, it takes you from point A to point B without jarring you or making you go “huh?” along the way because you are trying to figure out what the author means – don’t read Lottery.

2. If you simply cannot abide an interesting, compelling story, the kind that makes you late coming back from breaks at work, don’t read Lottery.

3. If you hate having to take a book to work with you because you can’t make it through the day without reading as much of it as possible, don’t read Lottery.

4. If you think mentally challenged people are somehow less than human, don’t read Lottery.

5. If you absolutely hate it when a story touches you emotionally and makes you feel all gooey inside, don’t read Lottery.

6. If you eat your boogers, don’t read Lottery. Although if you wash your hands first so as not to sully the pages of this wonderful book with your slimy nose goblins, then reading Lottery is probably ok. But remember, boogers on fingers = no Lottery.

7. If you hate staying up until two am reading while your significant other dozes away and complains about the light while he/she is trying to sleep, don’t read Lottery.

8. If you are the type of person who does not like to smile and feel good inside (you know, like those Goth kids who hate everything about life even though they are fourteen years old and have it made?), don’t read Lottery.

9. If you think virtues like friendship, love, self-sacrifice, integrity, and honesty are outdated concepts that have no place in a world of glass and steel, investments and brokers, power and megalomania, then don’t read Lottery. Actually, come to think of it, people who meet this criteria are probably badly in need of a book like Lottery.

And finally...

10. If you are an aspiring author, and you think you might be close to entering that magical realm known as publication, and you also think this means your writing and your story are good, and the last thing you need is for someone else to show you just how far you have to go before you can consider yourself worthy, do not, for your own sake, read Lottery.

Ok, so much of the above list is half-joking. It was meant to be light-hearted and to let you know that you should, indeed, read Lottery. But number 10 is dead-on serious. I consider myself a good writer. I can put sentences together in an engaging manner and when other people read them they know what I am trying to say. My beta readers tell me I am a good writer. A dozen or so agents have told me I am a good writer (handwritten notes, too!). Two publishers have told me I am a good writer, even if they didn’t publish my work. Get my point? I can write, at least, I like to think so.

That illusion has been shattered by a very simple, very likeable narration of an incredible man, Perry L. Crandall, who just happens to have an IQ of 76. Someday I hope to hone my writing skills to a level close to that which is present in Lottery. Not only does this book deserve its place on the bookshelf, it deserves all the accolades it will receive in the coming year, and there will be many, I am sure.

As I finished the last page, all I could think was Bravo. Bravo, Patricia Wood, Bravo! If Perry were sitting there with you, he’d probably tell you that Bravo means I liked it a lot.

In case you can’t tell, he’d be right.

Monday, May 21, 2007

The In-Laws Are Coming! The In-Laws Are Coming! Oh, And A Review Of Scott Sigler's Ancestor

It’s been a busy weekend in McAfee Land. Tomorrow afternoon a plane carrying my wife’s folks will arrive here in Knoxville, and yours truly will be there to pick them up. Now, I get along very well with both of them, they are the kind of folks who get along with just about everyone. Great bunch o’ folks. But unfortunately, a visit from the in-laws means clean, clean, clean. That’s all we did this weekend; clean. Yech! It’s amazing how dirty a house can get when you aren’t looking. Sheesh. I never thought of myself or my wife as pigs, but….Oink!

Anyway, y’all don’t wanna hear about that. So, as promised, here is my review of Ancestor, by Scott Sigler.

First, this is a well thought out book. The story is good, and the plot moves along quite well. From a great opening (it’s also a very creepy opening) to the conclusion, the pacing of this novel is excellent. I can’t think of a single thing in the book that felt like an afterthought, or something that was simply inserted to fill up pages. Make no mistake; Scott Sigler is a good writer.

The science (for me) seemed a little fuzzy, and the explanations lacked the level of detail that, say, Michael Crichton would insert. This hurt the believability only a little, as it really isn’t that important to the plot IMO. I’m not as concerned with how the creatures got there as I am with the simple fact that they ARE there. And hungry. My God, those things could eat…but I get ahead of myself.

There really wasn’t a lot of character development, but you don’t really expect that in a book like this anyway. Thrillers, traditionally, are thin on character development and thick on plot. And Ancestor is no exception, although Sigler does a good job of making some characters likeable, and others not. Some of the character traits seemed a bit weird (one character had a strange habit of stabbing himself with a Ka Bar to clear his head), and Sigler liked to write the accents of a couple of them. I found this a little distracting but it might not bother anyone else. I’m kinda odd like that.

While I found the book very good, and will certainly recommend it, I think it could have benefited from a little more editing. The reason I say this is because there are several places where it seems a thesaurus would have been helpful. Repeated words (especially in the same paragraph) have a tendency to stand out to me, and there were a few such places in this book.

Now, on to the best part; The Critters. The “ancestors” are extremely well imagined and quite scary. To me, this is the reason I picked up Ancestor in the first place; to read about the critters, and this is where Scott Sigler excels. His concept is obviously alive and well inside his head, and he does an excellent job of bringing the things to life in print. I’ve already told y’all about the certain scene that gave me nightmares, and while that was the only scene that did, there’s still plenty of creep-factor left in this book. If you are the kind of person for whom the idea of being torn to bits by a bunch of hungry… er… somethings… is enough to keep you up at night, then do yourself a favor and read this one with the lights on.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Having Nightmares At 33 - Also, Lottery ARC Has Arrived!!!

Allow me to sound like a small child for a moment:

I had nightmares last night. Seriously. From a book, no less.

The last time I read a scene in a book that gave me nightmares was the group shooting scene in The Stand. In that scene, a group of black soldiers had captured a group of white soldiers, and they had their dogtags in a giant bingo/lottery wheel setup. They’d pick a dogtag at random, and call the victim down to be executed in front of everyone. It really was a chilling scene, and it has stayed with me all these years.

Before that, Crichton’s Jurassic Park gave me nightmares. I read that one as soon as it came out in paperback waaaay back in…91? 92? I don’t remember. I think I was 18. I kept dreaming about velociraptors in my bedroom, watching me, studying me, wanting to know as much as they could about me before they tore me to shreds. I dunno, there’s just something chilling about dying in such a way. Being eaten, I mean. You know it can’t be personal, but I think that’s the problem. Just nature. Cold, cruel, and crimson.

In any case, those two books are the only ones that have ever given me nightmares in my adult life. It’s hard to scare me with a book or movie because the entire time I know it isn’t real, and that’s where the amusement comes in. I’m 33, and I would have to say I have been reading adult fiction for about 23 years, ever since I picked up a book of my dad’s about some albino guy who rolled around and killed people. In all that time, only those two books have ever caused me to lose sleep.

Until last night.

I have to add a new book to my ultra-creepy list. Ancestor. Yup. Scott Sigler again. I am only about halfway through the book, but last night I read a scene that came back to me at 3 am and pulled me out of bed. I don’t want to ruin it for anyone who might be reading this now or plans to read it in the future, but it involves a mammalian fetus doing things it shouldn’t be doing and being far more aware of it's environment than is normal...or natural.

Now, this sort of thing is very subjective, and what wakes me up at 3 am might not bother anyone else at all. But it sure worked for me. I saw that darn fetus in its pink and white prison and…well…that’s all I’m gonna say. Sooper Creepy. I’ll post a better review of the book when I finish it, hopefully in the next few days.

On another note, I received my ARC of Patricia Wood’s Lottery in the mail yesterday. YAAAAY!! I wasn’t one of the lucky ones to receive one the old fashioned way, so I had to snag one from ebay (Pat knew all about it, folks – she even sent me a link to one via email). I missed the first two that came up on ebay, but I got the third one. I also have a pre-order with Amazon for the hardcover (gotta support other authors, after all). I’m so anxious to read it I can barely stand it. Pat has promised to sign it for me if I like it (“if.” Her word, not mine. How do you like that modesty, eh?). I’m looking forward to this read, too. As with Ancestor, I’ll post a review when I finish the book.

On a final note, I have to say that Pat is one of the nicest people I’ve met since I started writing and looking up writer’s resources online, and that is saying something because I’ve met a lot of very nice folks. It never ceases to amaze me how some people are so giving of their time and experience. Just goes to show that kindness isn’t dead, despite what you see on the news every day. If you get a chance to visit her blog, you should definitely go. In addition to her valuable insights, she takes amazing pictures! The link is posted to the right.

What are you waiting for? Go. :)


Tuesday, May 8, 2007

The New Crack

Well, my little blog is just over a month old, and in looking over my past posts, I see I have not been doing my self-appointed job of watching out for the public’s interest (this may come as a surprise to some of you, since this is the first time I’ve mentioned this higher purpose, but trust me, it’s been there all along. Really. Would I lie?).

Thus, in the interest of public safety, it behooves me to issue the following public warning to all my fellow Blogomites:

Beware Blog Comments! They Are The New Crack!

You’ve seen the bloggers out there, I know you have, hunched over their computers like Quasimodo over his carvings (yes, the Disney Quasi). Their glazed eyes are bloodshot as they hit REFRESH over and over again in hopes that someone, somewhere, will give them a fix. They want their junk, no, they need their junk. It’s like crack, but worse, because at least crack makes you go out to get it. At least I think it does. No one’s invented a Crack Home Delivery business yet, have they? Crack Hut? Hey…maybe…

No. No! Bad David! No entrepreneurial ideas involving illegal substances. Prison is not the life for me.

Where was I?

Oh. Right. Blogger comments. Insanely addictive. Almost as bad as feedback in Share Your Work (that’s an Absolute Write Forum, in case anyone reading this doesn’t know). Blog Comment Addiction, or BCA, is rapidly becoming the number one cause of not only blindness and finger cramps, but also Nerditosis, Geekaphelia, and any other number of unsightly conditions which prohibit mankind's ability to reproduce by keeping the victims in front of the computer all day and preventing their physical interraction with others of the species.

I actually drew a single panel cartoon (which I would show here if I knew how...see the "not a techie" comments in earlier posts), with a guy on a street corner sitting at a laptop. His dirty clothes loosely cover his emaciated frame. His face is smudged, he has dark circles under his eyes, and he has about a four day growth of beard. In his hands is a cardboard sign that reads “Will Work For Blog Comments.”

That pretty much says it all, methinks.

Saturday, May 5, 2007

Ancestor Has Arrived... Also, Several Things That Are Aprilynne's Fault :)

Today when I opened my mailbox, a little package was waiting for me. Y'all would probably recognize the box. It has a little smile on it...the word "" printed on the side...ring a bell? Good.

Anyway, inside this lovely little box was Ancestor, by Scott Sigler. yes, I know, I've mentioned it several times already (and Scott has visited the blog a couple times, too...what fun!), but I was very excited to get it so soon. Amazon rocks! I'll be diving into that one tonight.

Moving last post revealed my lack of literary enlightenment to untold millions (or would have, if I had that many readers), and one comment from an individual I won't name (See Aprilynne? I didn't use your name. Ha! uuhhh...oops. I could delete that, but I'm too lazy), actually *sniff* used the word *sniff sniff* "loser".

Ok, so long story short, I decided to pick up some classics I have been meaning to read, but just have not gotten to yet. Among them are Where the Red Fern Grows, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, and Journey to the Center of the Earth. I plan to start with Fern (after Ancestor). I'm also going to break out my copy of Lord of the Flies and try reading it again.

The bad news is, when I got back from the store with all those books in my hand (I also bought The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon), my wife gave me a dirty look and reminded me that we are but poor serfs. I struggled for a moment, then I said "It's Aprilynne's fault. She called me a loser."

While my wife tried to figure that statement out I was able to make my getaway. :)

Of course, sooner or later I am going to have to go back downstairs...

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Ugly Day In The Smokies, Unofficial Thursday Thirteen - and Ancestor, by Scott Sigler

It’s Thursday morning here in the Great Smoky Mountains. The sun is doing its best to warm the earth through the cloud cover, and the birds are doing their little birdie things (my truck is parked as far away from any trees, telephone poles, signs, etc. as possible). The formerly blue sky is obscured by gray, bloated clouds, harbingers of the soggy day to come. No motorcycle ride for me tonight. It’s not the rain I mind so much as the idea of getting hit by lightning while riding at 70mph. Somehow, I just don’t think it’d be pretty.

OK, I heard about this “meme” (whatever that means – see the post where I admit to not being a techie) from Thomma Lyn. It’s called Thursday Thirteen. The idea is to post a list of thirteen things relevant to you and your life (or your cyber life). So, while I am not officially part of this “meme” (I haven’t signed up yet), I would still like to post my own T13 list. This one, for me, is kind of a confessional.

As an aspiring writer, there are just some books that I should have read by this point in my life, and through poor taste, laziness, or some other such thing I have not done so. In addition, there are new books out there which I should have picked up and read, and again, I have not. So here is my shame-filled list.

Thirteen Books I Have Not Read, But Probably Should

1) Where the Red Fern Grows
2) To Kill A Mockingbird
3) 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea
4) Bram Stoker’s Dracula
5) Lord of the Flies (Note: I started to read this and didn’t get far)
6) The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People
7) The Secret
8) In Cold Blood
9) On Writing
10) Dune
11) The Land That Time Forgot (Note: This is one I will be reading very soon)
12) The Once and Future King
13) Slaughterhouse Five

There ya have it. I’m a literary slacker. I feel so dirty. Although I have read Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities, and Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment, so I do have one or two classics rolling around inside my head. I’m not a total loss. :)

Also, good news in my email this morning (no, not an offer), but one of the books I ordered the other day has shipped. Ancestor, by Scott Sigler. This after Scott commented on a post here in I Have A Blog? and wished me luck in getting it soon. After Scott’s visit, I was thinking I might not see Ancestor for a month or more, but here it is, only a few days later, and the book is on its way.

Yay Amazon!

Maybe Scott will pop back in. If he does, I hope he reads this so he’ll know they are shipping his book fairly quick now.

Now I am just waiting on Lottery and Look Me In The Eye to ship. Those two will be a while, though.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Editorial Rejection - "Controversial"

Me: Ok, folks out there in Blog O Land, say hello to Rejection Number Two (wild applause from the studio audience).

Rejection Number Two comes to us today from That impish Penguin Imprint, Berkley! (another round of studio applause)

So, R#2, tell us about yourself.

R#2: Well, I'm an email rejection (wild applause), and I'm short but to the point (yup...wild applause). My basic message is this: Too Controversial

Me: Too controversial?

R#2: That's right, David.

Me: Ok, but not "The writing is terrible" or "The plot stinks," or "Your author needs to stick his head in a Glad bag and inhale deeply for several minutes," nothing like that?

R#2: No, no. Nothing like that. Too controversial. That's all.

Me: And there you have it, ladies and gentlemen! (more wild applause) Controversial does not always equal dollar signs. Let's have a nice round of applause for our guest, Rejection Number Two! ( get the idea)

R#2: Thank You, thank you. I love you all.


Seriously, it's a bummer to get another rejection (Two publishers so far...both of which require an agent [hehe...I have an agent - I never get tired of saying that] to submit). But you know (or yanno, for the Snark O Philes out there), if I'm going to get rejected, this is one I can handle. I can deal with "controversial" as a reason for rejection because honestly, to me a little controversy is a good thing. Stir the pot. Make some noise. Stories don't always have to be "safe" to be good. To my mind, there is definitely a place, nay, a need, for "dark" fiction. Stories that go where people don't normally look. Ugly little misshapen pieces of fictitious...uh...fiction. Yeah. I like those types of stories (which is probably why I wrote one). I like them, I say. Bring them on. Bring them...OW! Damn!

Oops. I got too excited and fell off my soap box. I think I broke my pinkie toe. Sorry for the rant, y'all. Got a little carried away. In all honesty I knew, the moment the idea struck me, that it would probably be called "controversial" at some point. I wrote it anyway. Faint heart ne'er won a fair publisher' A Fair lady ne'er a heart won...Crud! How's that one go? Nevermind. The point is I knew this was coming sooner or later. The first rejection I received (for those who read that post, both of ya) was similar. They didn't actually use the word "controversial," but it was clear the editor thought so.

But the good news, in both cases, is that was the only reason for the rejection. No harping about the writing, no one said the plot was lame, and none of them thought the idea derivative, wish-fulfillment, or otherwise unoriginal.

Just "Controversial."

I can live with that.

Three Books I Bought Today plus My Reading List

I went on Amazon this morning and bought three new books. The earliest one will ship on May 13th, the latest won't ship until September. No instant gratification here. No, sir. S'okay, though. They are worth it.

For those who are curious, the three books (in the order in which they will ship) are:

Ancestor by Scott Sigler
Lottery by Patricia Wood
Look Me In The Eye by John Elder Robinson

You can find links to Pat's and John's blogs off to the right. If you haven't been their way, you should definitely go.

Here are the books I am currently reading:

Midnight Harvest by Chelsea Quinn Yarbro (reading this one at work on my lunch break)
The Destructor by Jon F. Merz
The Xeno Solution by Nelson Erlick
A Perfect Evil by Alex Kava
and I am beta reading Gate Walker by friend and fellow AW Member Chris Stevenson. BTW - Chris has a book coming out next month from Rain Books called Word Wars. Yay, Chris!! :)

Lastly, I got an email from my agent yesterday. No news, just keeping me up to speed on where we are, which is waiting for editorial decisions. Waiting, waiting, waiting... gotta love it, right?