Thursday, September 9, 2010

Books Read Lately

Nail Your Novel, by Roz Morris
This is a must for writers. Roz hates wasting energy. This is a fantastic battle plan for assisting a novelist, gleaned from years of experience. Virtually any situation you may find yourself in is covered, so that you can get the most of your writing time.
She tackles all the aspects and distractions, beginning with - Why people start novels and don't finish, shaping and focusing your inspiration, getting through your first draft, What to do before you rewrite--This was the section that especially spoke to me right now.
The Beat Sheet Game, this is about checking all the story mechanics and guiding you to ask critical questions for the sake of having the most powerful and resonant scenes possible. All in all it helps write a better novel.
Then there is the rewriting section, that guides revision and finally sending your novel out to seek its fortune.
The tips contained are not geared for any genre or style per-se, it's all about technique, craft and confidence.

People of the Jaguar, by Nicholas J. Saunders
How about that? I could not find an image online for the cover and I was too lazy to scan one-so I have one of the pics contained within that itself establishes what the focus is about.
Subtitled, the Living Spirit of Ancient America, this is a historical anthropological look at how ancient Americans viewed that top-notch predator, the jaguar and how it affected their belief structure. While I have read more comprehensive books on the Maya and Aztec, this one focus's on the great cat. The pic I have posted shows a beast with manlike attributes, eating a human heart.
The sorcery and mysticism involved with these legends are rivers of inspiration for a fiction writer.

Taming the Sasquatch, by Lee Nelson
A very brisk read. Nelson opens with what is the end and we are along for the ride in what really happened at the top of the Dam on Deer Creek reservoir, I have to laugh because the scene in the book is somewhere I am personally very familiar with in Utah, and then, get this, where the Sasquatch comes from (in Montana) is another place I am very familiar with, having camped where the Sasquatch lives many times. I sure never noticed one, but it made everything in the book very easy to picture.
It was enjoyable but at the same time nearly everything was just too convenient, I would have liked a tad more suspension of disbelief-and this is coming from a guy that as Fox Mulder says, "I want to believe."

Batman: Resurrection of Ra's Al Ghul, by Grant Morrison and Paul Dini
I gotta say I love the character of Batman, one of my absolute favorite comic characters (along with Wolverine) and I love other Batman graphics that these guys have worked on DETECTIVE for one, but something about this one wasn't quite right. I was excited for the concept-one of Batman's best villains coming back from the grave but the execution here was a little weak. Things jumped around and were never clear to the audience and not in a good way either. Flashbacks gave snippets of information about things we have no way of knowing enough about to care. A new character was introduced that didn't make a lick of sense in the first place, one of those guys where we are supposed to accept he has always been there-you just never noticed him before? Come on.
So it wasn't bad, but it wasn't nearly as good as the other Bat books I have read the last few years.

Sword of Shannara, by Terry Brooks
I have put off reading Brooks for years because I wasn't interested in someone aping Tolkien-at least that's what I always heard he did. I had to laugh over how much Lin Carter* raged against Brooks in The Years Best Fantasy 4, the collection that came out the same year as the Silmarillion and Conan of Aquilonia.
So while I own a copy of SoS (my library is vast...vast) I haven't really wanted to pick it up.
Then I was working with some friends a couple days, who wanted to listen to an audiobook-that's cool, I love audiobooks. What do they have? Sword of Shannara.
I have listened to at least 6 or 7 hours of Brooks and I'm done. Everything was as I suspected a twist on Tolkien, every single concept. Oh and can the guy Al-Anon (Alcoholics Anonymous?) do anything without it being labeled "mockingly"?
I kinda hoped it would be better than I expected, but NO. My friends assured me that the books later in the sprawling series are better, but I don't have the time.

* Thanks Lagomorph Rex


Charles Gramlich said...

I'll have to get that writing book. I'm something of a collector of such. I love the whole analysis of writing stuff, which is why I did "Write With Fire," of course.

David J. West said...

I want to get yours too Charles.

Karlene said...

I read Sword of Shannara in high school and liked it. But then, I was 17. So... I've liked others in that series, but haven't read them all.

I liked his Word & Void series better. I also liked the Landover series better than Shannara.

David J. West said...

Karlene, I don't know if I have even heard of the Word & Void series. I do absolutely give that as writers we progress over time and this was his first book, but as much as I love fantasy it wasn't grabbing me.

TerryLynnJohnson said...

thanks for the tip. other good ones I've just read are Save the Cat by Blake Snyder and the Fire in Fiction by Donald Maass

TerryLynnJohnson said...

btw - I really did like reading Brooks when I was younger. Not sure if I'd like it now though.

JW said...

I will have to check out the writing book, as well since I am just starting a novel and just a little bit terrified. ;) Have a great day and thanks for the share! Janelle

Shannon O'Donnell said...

That's an interesting collection of recent reads - pretty diverse. I need to be better about branching out like that. I'll have to pick up a copy of Roz's book. It looks like a good one. :-)

T.J. said...

I would recommend The Elfstones of Shannara for its originality as compared to Sword of Shannara, which is a LotR copycat for all intents and purposes. However, Elfstones doesn't even continue where Shannara left off, it's years later and it's full of different characters. Just a recommendation.

The writing book sounds really cool.

David J. West said...

Cool Terry, its all good.

JW-I highly recomend it, I am sure it can help give you confidenc to do it-my review isn't nearly worthy.

Shannon-yeah it helpsd us branch out as writers and not get too stuffy into any one thing. Diversity of craft is IMAO key to creating something truly great.

David J. West said...

Hey TJ, yeah stuff for writing craft is always useful. I do have friends that liked Elfstones a lot.

Clarissa Draper said...

Some really interesting titles there. I'll have a look.


David J. West said...

No problem Clarissa, take your time.

Lagomorph Rex said...

That actually would be Lin Carter who did the railing in Years Best Fantasy 4.

Which to me always struck me as very funny considering he basically did the same thing Brooks did with Tolkien, to Howard and Burroughs with his Thongor and Gondawane books.

David J. West said...

Lagomorph-ah-you're right, my bad-memory betrayed me-of course because he was saying HIS Conan of Aquilaonia and Silmarillion were finally released.

And yes he did.

Th. said...


Did not care for that Ra's al Ghul much (although it was better than Batman and Son which preceded it).

I think I may need Roz's book.... It's not that I'm doing nothing --- I'm busy writing --- I'm just not working on my novel. Does it help with that?

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David J. West said...

Th.-I'll avoid Batman and Son then, I really didn't care for the kid anyway-everything about him was that irritating steroetype.

Kimberly said...

My feelings about Brooks EXACTLY. Even in my teens I was put off by his writing, and yet so many people I know adore his books. It's a puzzlement.

David J. West said...

Kim-the man is huge, no doubt about it, but he does seem to be standing on the shoulders of others shamelessly (at least form the scant amount I have listened to)