Saturday, July 8, 2017

Curious Minds by Janet Evanovich

Scott D. Parker

If  you read my post from last week, you’ll remember that I recently read a book “into the dark.” That is, I had zero preconceived notions of the book, the characters, the reviews, etc. I didn't look up any back story on the writing of the book or find any interviews with the author and her inspiration. I simply read the book because the back cover blurb hooked me with a single word (“irrepressible”) and I felt like reading the novel.

But how was it? That’s the point of today’s post.

Curious Minds is billed as “A Knight and Moon Novel.” You see what Evanovich did there? A nice play on words. The first person is Emerson Knight, rich billionaire playboy who is quite quirky. He is described as the cover of a romance novel come to life. I don’t know about y’all but the first thing I think of when I read that was Fabio. But Emerson’s dark hair also gave me a Ryan Gosling vibe. It didn’t hurt that I had recently re-watched The Nice Guys (still love it).

Moon is Riley Moon, junior analyst for the mega bank Blane-Grunwald, and up to her chin in student loan debt on account of her earning two degrees, one from Harvard Business and the second from Harvard Law. She’s whip smart and her Texas upbringing comes across in her attitude and her ability to shoot a gun, something her sheriff father made sure she knew how to do. Her favorite phrase is “Crap on a cracker,” and Emerson never fails to find her charming.

Her job is simple: babysit Emerson and his intense desire to see his gold in Blane-Grunwald’s vaults. His unwavering determination quickly reveals a secret that sends Knight and Moon on a race against time and across the country to uncover a dreadful secret before the bad guys catch up to them and take the out.

The story itself is a breezy sort of yarn, perfectly at home, say, on network television. That’s not a bad thing, mind you. I love network TV. But what you get with Curious Minds is a tale with little in the way of bad language or on-the-page violence. The bad guys often revert to saying what they’d do to a person and let that serve the reader’s imagination. The pace is rather quick with little in the way of scene-setting. Evanovich gave just enough description that I didn’t need a lot of extra words.

This book is, in some ways, like a romance. The plot is there mainly to serve as a means of throwing Knight and Moon together and letting them—and us readers—get to know each other. The will-they or won’t-they vibe is present, but not too oppressive. There are quite a few comments about modern pop culture that I found entertaining.

The tete-a-tete between the two is why you read a book like this and I wasn’t disappointed. Since I read the novel in five days—hey, I have to sleep and go to work!—it counts as the fastest book I’ve read in a long time. I usually had a grin on my face and thoroughly enjoyed myself with this, my first Evanovich book.

How much did I enjoy it? I’m already less than a hundred pages to the end of Dangerous Minds, the second novel in the series.

BTW, I've still not read a single review. I wanted to wait until I wrote my own. Now, my embargo is over!

Friday, July 7, 2017

Dreams Really Do Come True

My birthday is coming soon and all I've really ever wanted was for it to be Halloween in July. I love Halloween. I love watching horror movies all month, decorating, handing out candy, seeing cute kids in adorable costumes - there isn't anything about Halloween I don't love (except for those assholes that stole all our candy one year - bowl and everything. I hate them). This year, I learned that if you work hard and believe in yourself, all your dreams can come true.

I've been invited to host a panel/workshop at Midsummer Scream 2017 in Long Beach! We'll be discussing how to plan a killer (haha, get it?) wedding if you're Halloween obsessed or just have a really dark soul. My wedding was small and mostly traditional, but we always dream of a big 10 year vow renewal that will knock everyone's socks off, so I'll be asking questions and taking notes. After that I'm going to do my damndest to find Cassandra Peterson (best known as Elvira) and get a picture.

The whole event is like a love letter to my perfect birthday and I can't wait. If you're local, or just fucking love Halloween, you should come check it out (Midsummer Scream).

Maybe our vow renewal will be Kurt Russell Themed?
I've also been asked to host a panel at BoucherCon, and I hope to peer pressure a lot of you into coming to see me ask questions about "California Schemin'" - California's influence on our beloved genre.

Two and a half years of Books and Booze has paid off! I am an expert at asking questions while inebriated, so this won't be a challenge at all!

Thursday, July 6, 2017

The New ASH Book

By Steve Weddle

As character names go, "Ash" is pretty good. A burning past. Something gone. Energy. That sort of thing.

I picked up Nick Petrie's The Drifter this weekend. They had the trade paperback for $16.99 and the mass market for $8. And I think it was one of those slightly taller mass market paperbacks. I don't know what they're called. Deckle-edged spadia remainder. Who knows? I'm not a scientician.

Turns out it's really good so far. I figure he lives, because there's more Peter Ash:


Here's a great post for coming up with a last name for a character.

I nearly called the character in my new novel "Gandhi Shakespeare," but you're supposed to avoid famous names such as those or Hieronymus Bosch or Sam Capra.

Also, this image in that blog post of Shaggy passed out while writing a book cracks me up:

Of course, you can't go wrong using a roster of some college baseball team to name your characters. If anyone from the 1983 LSU Tigers ever reads my next sestina cycle, I'm probably in more legal trouble.

Oh, and here's a kinda weird page suggesting character names, with examples and pointers.

Naming a character can be pretty important. You can use "Alice Hero" as a placeholder to get the story moving, but you really have to get the character right in your head before you can move on. I know I do. (My head, I mean. Not yours, you creep.)

That's it. Back to the final 300 pages of this Ash novel. Be nice to people.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Bloody Good 4th of July Film Festival

What's a good 4th of July film festival?  Here's what I might pick.

Zodiac (2007): directed by David Fincher

This movie has nothing to do with Independence Day, but its chilling opening scene takes place on July 4th, 1969, when the first of the Zodiac Murders occurred. And any excuse is a good excuse to watch Zodiac again.

Mystic River (2003): directed by Clint Eastwood

If you've seen the movie, you know how sad and affecting its final scene is. It's a parade clearly marking something related to American independence and the country's spirit. Except that, unbeknownst to all but a few in the crowd, a horror lurks underneath everything, a sense of misplaced justice.  And you can see it all on Marcia Gay Harden's face, as she grasps the enormity of precisely what has happened.

Jaws (1975), directed by Steven Spielberg

When you think great 4th of July scenes in movies, you can't help but think of Jaws. There's the scene shown here and the actual July 4th shark attack scene soon after it.  "You open the beaches on the Fourth of July, it's like ringing the dinner bell, for Christ's sakes!"

Blow Out (1981): directed by Brian De Palma

Against the Americana and fireworks of the Philadelphia Liberty Day Parade, Brian de Palma sets his climax to Blow-Out, which acts as an effective counterbalance to any heightened sense of optimism in the American system.  For both Nancy Allen and John Travolta, the red, white and blue event turns out to be anything but a chance to celebrate. Great film, though.

Monday, July 3, 2017

Shuffling The Deck

Wentworth. This has become one of my favorite dramas over the past few years, and if you haven't been watching it, you might want to stop reading now and skip over to Netflix and rectify that situation.

A fan's take on season 1. 

However, if you don't mind spoilers (which I'll try to keep minimal and avoid specifics), or are caught up, there's something I've really taken away from the latest season of this Australian prison drama (which makes Litchfield look like a country club housing wannabe tough girls) about plot development. Wentworth did the unthinkable by killing off one of its leading characters at the end of season 4. It did not rest on its laurels with its approach to season 5. Instead, the groundwork was laid early in season 4 for new faces and changing variables that would shake the remaining inmates (and correctional staff) to their core. We're 2/3 of the way through season 5, and it's a brilliant example of how shifting the pieces can impact character growth, character arcs, and both primary and secondary plotlines.

There's a temptation in many genres to use a common tactic; splitting up a core group. The X-Files get shut down and Mulder and Scully are reassigned. In CSI the night shift is split up. And all too often, the writers rush through that phase and bring the band back together. Unfortunately, doing so often stagnates growth.

Wentworth season 5 could have been a season of mourning as inmates grieved their loss; instead, the drama has been elevated to a whole new level, making this one of the strongest seasons for an incredibly strong show.

Personally, I don't mind spoilers. Sometimes, I love them. Part of the reason is that I'm interested in exploring the mechanics to see how the writers get from point A to the end of the Greek alphabet. I love it most of all when I can't predict the moves it will take, but that I'm completely satisfied that the event was earned through believable character actions and events.

I know a little spoiler about the episodes of Wentworth we haven't seen, and all I can say is that I can't wait to connect the dots from where we are now to that outcome. For me, the conclusion isn't always the greatest treat in the story; it's seeing the writers dig deep to bring out the best storylines and keep the audience on the edge of their seat while everything unfolds.

If you're looking for inspiration, considering how to add layers to your plot that increase the tension, study a show like Wentworth. This is a master class in weaving arcs together for the good of the story.

(The best show trailers don't have embed capability, but are available on Youtube.)

Sunday, July 2, 2017

A Time for Independence

America isn’t the only country having a birthday this week. It turns out July has historically been a hot time for independence. Here’s a sampling of nations celebrating their special days, and this doesn’t even count at least ten other countries whose birthdays fall later in the month.
Algeria, July 5, 1962, from France
Argentina, July 9, 1866, from Spain
Burundi, July 1, 1962, from Belgium
Canada, July 1, 1867. Now a member of the British Commonwealth
Cape Verde, July 5, 1975, from Portugal
Comoros, July 6, 1975, from France
Malawi, July 6, 1964. Now a member of the British Commonwealth
Rwanda, July 1, 1962, from Belgium
Solomon Islands, July 7, 1978. Now a member of the British Commonwealth
Somalia, July 1, 1960, joining together the Trust Territory of Somalia                        (formerly Italian Somaliland) and British Somaliland
Venezuela, July 5, 1811, from Spain
And for those blog readers here in the U.S., there's a date in the course of human events that none of us forget:
United States of America, July 4, 1776, from Britian
Happy Fourth of July.