Book Review: W is for Wasted by Sue Grafton

I wasn’t in any particular rush to read this – though once upon a time, I could hardly wait to get my hands on the next Kinsey Millhone book. The last two were immensely disappointing: Sue Grafton hadn’t slacked, but she shifted away from Kinsey’s first person viewpoint and for me, it didn’t work. I didn’t want to get inside the head of a murderer. I wanted to get inside the head of Kinsey! WASTED started brilliantly – and then dived into the head of a different character. Oh no, I thought – erroneously. Because WASTED is NOT like the previous two. IT’S BRILLIANT! Sue Grafton is not only back on form but better than ever. We’re now in 1988 and the world has become more recognisable – the late eighties seem to be the way the eighties are generally remembered (the start of the decade is just leftover seventies…) The story is terrific and very broad with strands that don’t at first seem at all connected. When they do start to mesh, the book becomes unputdownable. We even get a couple of days of Dietz, Kinsey’s sexiest lover. What a treat. W is for Wonderful. Can’t wait for the next one if this is the way the series is going to go out – on a high, high note.

Book Review: The Ides of April by Lindsey Davis

I really wanted to like this. I utterly adore the Falco novels and have read every one more than once. Upon rereading Nemesis, I saw more clearly how Albia was being set up as to follow Falco. The first time I read it, I remember thinking – aargh, no, I can’t stand this character, why is Lindsey writing about her so much? The second time it was obvious. Albia was going to wear the Falco crown and badly she wears it too. The problem with Albia is that she is unlikable. She’s boring; she’s a bad judge of character; she’s apparently tough but we never see it; she has so many chips on her shoulder she can hardly see straight; she has no sense of humour whatsoever; she’s not Falco. There’s not a lot one can do about the last one but why did she have to be so uninteresting? Falco was funny, he was smart, he was tough, he loved Helena with all his heart and soul. His view on Rome was fascinating. His conversations were brilliant. Albia never relates an intimate conversation. There’s very little personal stuff. We don’t see her interacting with her family at all, though they clearly play a strong role in her life. Worse, through the Albia books, Lindsey Davis is systematically removing everything from Falco’s life that brings him joy. I fully expect her to kill off Helena just to make him more miserable. Why? Is this a case of an author who has come to hate her popular creation? A sad ending to a brilliant series.

Science fiction – have we forgotten what it should be?

susannahjbell:

Am I not a science fiction writer after all?

Originally posted on Nail Your Novel:

Pioneer-10-and-11-plaqueWhat makes a story science fiction? Is it an otherworldly location, the science, the time in which it is set?

I’m thinking about this because of a review I saw this week of a novel billed in The Times as science fiction, which sounded rather disappointing – and it’s put me on a bit of a mission.

I haven’t read the book so it would be wrong of me to name it, but it concerned a new planet populated by humanlike aliens. The main threads are the bringing of God to the indigenous people, and the exploitation of its resources by mining companies.

It seemed this story could have been set anywhere. The human challenges were no different from those in a historical novel. The other-world setting didn’t add anything fresh, except maybe to save the writer some research. (I see a lot of science fiction – and fantasy –…

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Accidently got my new book published on Super Thursday!

I wasn’t trying to get V.GOMENZI published on Super Thursday – I didn’t even know the date!  I had dimly thought about it, but then decided it was a marketing gimmick that wouldn’t do me any favours.  After all, I’m only a completely unknown self-pubbed author.  Whose going to notice?!  I decided to try out Amazon’s pre-order facility instead and picked 3rd November as publication day, mostly because I happen to have taken the day off from work that day and also, it gives people a chance to find out about my “Meet the Author” event on Face Book.  If it sounds like I’m doing hardcore marketing stuff, you’d be right:  I’ve failed dismally so far at promoting my work so thought I’d have a go at it this way.  I really, really don’t like this marketing business.  The main reason I write is because I find it difficult to engage with people – not because I don’t like them, but because I’m crippled with shyness.  It’s interesting that when I hang out with my teenage daughter, I’m hysterically funny, super witty and can act out anything.  This side of me is never seen otherwise!  But I digress:  V.GOMENZI is an enormous novel.  It took several years to write and I’ve recently done a huge edit PLUS a complete rewrite of the first chapter (which recently troubled me so much.)  I’m utterly thrilled that it’s finally out there.  I’m also quite drained after the months of hard work…..really looking forward to that day off!

You can pre-order here:  V.GOMENZI

Meet the Author on 3rd November:  FaceBook Event

What’s wrong with Doctor Who?

I’ve tried really hard to like the new series.  In the most recent episode, however, I found myself wandering off to the kitchen to get more chocolate.  I was that bored.  I can’t figure out what’s wrong with it.  Is it the new Doctor?  Peter Capaldi’s Doctor doesn’t seem that well-defined.  Or he isn’t to me.  He isn’t particularly likeable and his words and intentions seem to lack clarity.  I might have been able to put up with him, though, if it wasn’t for Clara.  God, I hate her.  She has to be the worst companion ever.  She may be pretty, young and thin.  But that’s all she is.  She has no character to speak of and her life is of no interest to me whatsoever.  She was at her ghastliest in The Caretaker with the boring boyfriend and the Doctor’s misunderstanding – so seriously not funny.  Really not funny.  Not even interesting.  It might just be the writing that is paltry but it’s also the acting.  Compare Rory who was brilliant.  In fact, it’s hard not to compare ClaraDanny with AmyRory – this has been done.  Why is it being done again?  And so badly too.  My favourite companions have been the ones who didn’t fancy the doctor.  Donna didn’t and please note, she wasn’t in her twenties and wasn’t super-thin.  She was normal.  She was funny.  She didn’t take any bullshit and didn’t bat her stupid eyelashes at him.  Clara might have a boyfriend now but she is still vapid.  It isn’t enough to be pretty.  She wasn’t interesting when she was impossible and she still isn’t.  Her story arc is unfolding like a shit soap.  Since she her arrival, the writing has become tired and the direction limp.  Doctor Who seems to be eating itself up with derivative, cannibalistic plots.  It’s become the Downton Abbey of sci-fi.

Another reason for loathing Clara is that apparently she is to blame for the Doctor’s mental state.  In Listen, it’s Clara who tells the Doctor as a child that fear will always be with him.  My 14 y.o. thought that was horrible.  What a way to screw up someone.

And yes, I know I’m treading on toes.  I know Clara is popular.  She’s pretty, she’s scared.  She’s courageous.  What’s not to like.  I’d rather have outrageous, like River Song, but that’s another story….[see interesting blog link below]

http://www.tor.com/blogs/2014/01/the-problem-with-river-song-doctor-who

What do you do when you realise you are a terrible writer

Give up?  Start over?  Get a job stacking shelves in some shitty supermarket?  Turn into the dull, grey, dying-inside person you’re afraid of?

I’ve spent all summer editing.  Both the third and fourth Fleet Quintet novels were already written but needed work.  I deliberately didn’t get a summer contract so that I could concentrate on this, without distraction.  (I also had a health problem to overcome.)  This has meant a very long summer with very little money and quite a dreary time of it in over-baked London.

Only one section of V. Gomenzi really needed work, while Commences needed quite a lot of re-shaping.  Now that it’s officially the fourth Fleet novel and not the first, there could be more revelations and explanations.  This really helped what had always been a difficult and obfuscated story.  Finally I was done editing and formatting (unbelievably tiresome but it has to be done) and could get on with the final step:  proofreading V. Gomenzi.  The best way, I’ve found, to approach a novel freshly is to send it to myself on Kindle and read it there.  The novel looks quite different to a computer screen and errors leap out at you very quickly.

I began proofing today but didn’t get very far as I realised – with horror – that the first chapter is terrible.  It’s heavy and overwritten and slow and dull dull dull.  How could I not have noticed this?  Is the rest of the novel like this?  Years and years of working on this, on countless drafts, countless reworkings.  I thought it was my best work, the most mature, the most complex, the most defined – and it’s SLUDGE?

Worse than perceiving myself to be a failure of a writer is that there are SO MANY bad writers, traditionally published and self-pubbed.  In the latter sector, only porn makes money. There was once honour in being a failed writer – they were always the most interesting, the most tortured characters in murder mysteries.  What is the point of a bad writer now?  Or doesn’t it matter if you think no one is going to read it anyway??

Firefly vs Defiance

I wouldn’t normally compare two sci-fi series.  After all, the genre is big enough to encompass so many styles that there is something for everyone, but the SyFy Channel parked these two series alongside each other at peak viewing time and it was impossible not to find the one better than the other.  I can’t believe I’ve never heard of Firefly, considering that I used to be a huge Buffy fan.  Why was it cancelled?  It’s excellent stuff.  And WAY better than Defiance which is, admittedly, in a different sci-fi category altogether.  It’s interesting how the words “mass appeal” are akin to “brain-dead crud.”  I tried to like it, I really did, but it’s just not smart enough.

PS  I’ve been checking to see what Joss Whedon has been up to recently and he seems to have been working on something called Agents of SHIELD.  Looks interesting.  Why don’t we get that?  Or is it on a channel I don’t get?  I’ll have to wait for it to get old so that it can turn up on SyFy.