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I am a big fan of Maureen Johnson's Suite Scarlet, which I described as being a "combination of mainstream fiction and screwball comedy." I sought out her book, The Name of the Star, for that reason and because it was a contemporary thriller. I can take or leave that genre, in general, but I'm interested in it when combined with YA.
I have to say that I found The Name of the Star slow getting started. I'm not giving anything away by saying the story deals with a Jack the Ripper copycat murderer. He's carefully mentioned in each of the early chapters, but those chapters are used primarily to get main character, Rory, established in her English boarding school. I liked the premise behind the Scooby Gang that is hunting the killer, but this particular case seemed a little weak to me.
That being said, The Name of the Star is the first in a series, The Shades of London. I'm going to pick up a copy of The Madness Underneath, Book 2. As I said, I liked the Scooby Gang, and I think it's possible that after The Name of the Star set up the universe, succeeding books could end up being stronger.
It could also teeter into that adult thriller retooled for YAs category that I've been noticing recently. Daisy Goodnight (a great name) is a freshman in college and the two guys she's not quite torn between are twenty-somethings. Daisy's story is entertaining and engaging, but there's no compelling reason for these characters to be as young as they are. The story could easily be flipped for older, even much older, characters.
As I said, Daisy is a college freshman, which is a neat way of making her available to FBI agents who want her assistance. It is easier for a person that age to be off having adventures, than a younger one, even a younger one who is an orphan like Daisy. The FBI is interested in Daisy because she can communicate with the dead, helpful when investigating murders. The world of the book is one in which any number of people can do magic to one degree or another, and while it may not be common knowledge, even a criminal mastermind may use magical assistance. The Goodnight family is full of hedge witches and other magical sorts.
The book begins with a murder and involves the story of how Daisy gets drawn into a scheme to take advantage of the dead. I got lost a few times in the plot, but Daisy is definitely a charmer.
Another interesting point I must mention--No blurbs on the cover! The back cover simply says, "Daisy Goodnight can talk to the dead. And something has them terrified." And that's why I read a book about ghosts when I don't care for them.
After a long wait, Bieber’s new single ‘Boyfriend’ is here (and we like the more mature sound that has been compared to Justin Timberlake. Sure, the lyrics are a little cheesy and will probably make tween girls swoon, but the song is more... Read the rest of this post
Every week, I spelunk into the Writer’s Digest archives to find the wisest, funniest, or downright strangest moments from our 92 years of publication.
About 10 years ago, lawyer-turned-novelist John Grisham spilled the beans in Newsweek that a 1973 Writer’s Digest article paved the way for him to write his bestseller The Firm.
Naturally, we’ve been geeking out about this since we first heard it, and see it referenced every so often in relation to Grisham books, but I’d never actually read the piece. So I dug it up today—it’s by author Brian Garfield, and was originally titled “10 Rules for Suspense Fiction.”
Give the protagonist a tight time limit, and then shorten it.
Choose your character according to your own capacities, as well as his.
Know your destination before you set out.
Don’t rush in where angels fear to tread.
Don’t write anything you wouldn’t want to read.
For the full piece, “10 Rules for Suspense Fiction” by Brian Garfield, click here.
Zachary Petit is an award-winning journalist, the managing editor of Writer’s Digest magazine, and the co-author of A Year of Writing Prompts: 366 Story Ideas for Honing Your Craft and Eliminating Writer’s Block.
As a child, everything and everyone looked big to me. Then I grew older, and the world appeared normal-sized.
When I was growing up, I used to live next to a park. It seemed like an ideal location, because I could play on the monkey bars and making pretend cakes in the sand. Now, I'm glad the park in our neighborhood is a few blocks away, so I don't have to worry about the noise, or the older kids who hang around there at night.
Then there's the matter of age. Wow, 30 used to be awfully old, and 70 was ancient. Now I'm twice 30, so 70 is getting closer and not as old as before.
When it's winter and I'm freezing, 60 degrees seems warm. During summer, 60 degrees feels cool.
I used to work in Downtown Chicago, and thought nothing of joining the herds of commuters who got on the train, then off to march down the street to offices and other places of employment. Now I'm retired, and going Downtown seems a big deal. Not only that, I wonder how I could have put up with all those people all over the place, getting in my way.
There are countless other examples I could give, but you get the picture. When crafting your characters, take into consideration such factors as age, physical characteristics, background, environment, and family.The more layers you can add to round out your characters, the more their perspectives will make sense to the reader.
Sometimes you can sit next to the lake and see the strangest things. Actually, it's what you can't see. Sometimes fog swallows the entire lake and the mountains on the far shore and all the sky. There's nothing beyond the shore but a swirling mass of etheral looking stuff where the world used to be. [...]
Writer’s Digest is having as Popular Fiction Award Contest. There are six genres: Young Adult Fiction, Romance, Mystery/Crime Fiction, SciFi/Fantasy, Thriller/Suspense, and Horror. The catch is to keep it to 4000 words. Not an easy thing to do when you are used to writing a 65,000 word + novel.
Here’s the scoop:
The Grand Prize winner will receive a $2500 cash prize, plus a trip to the 2013 Writer’s Digest Conference in New York City.
Each of the six category winners will receive a $500 cash prize.
Get your story published in Writer’s Digest, as well as on writersdigest.com
$100 off a purchase at writersdigestshop.com.
A copy of the 2013 Novel & Short Story Writer’s Market.
I struggled to get past the first 50 or so pages of Stieg Larsson’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, thinking, as I dutifully turned the pages, “this is boring and the writing (or translation) is flat.” I’m almost embarrassed to admit this because it seems that everyone I know has been urging me to read this book (people speak of it with the kind of reverence I usually reserve for the likes of Ian McEwan and Toni Morrison) for months. I’m about 150 pages in now and I’m definitely more engaged, but I’m frankly (don’t yell at me) still at a loss as to why this book has been such a huge global success.
And that leads to the subject of Alexander Nazaryan’s piece in the Daily Beast about the decline of the American thriller now that the category has been hijacked by foreigners. Mr. Nazaryan wonders, “Will the American thriller go the way of the American automobile? Will even this small part of our superiority cede to another part of the world?” My response is “Does it matter?”
In fact, it seems to me that anything that revives this rather tired category is a good thing. The problem, as I see it, is not that the foreigners are taking over, it’s that readers have become so used to the big, bloated franchise writers who dominate the bestseller lists (I’m looking at you Dan Brown and James Patterson) and publishers so unwilling to nurture the more daring and intriguing entries into the field that it takes an international Cinderella story to make American readers pay attention once again.
I’m a big fan of intelligent, well-written, well-plotted thrillers with iconic protagonists and thorny moral issues. And it’s always seemed to me that, like jazz, the thriller is a quintessentially American literary form (no disrespect to Dostoevsky and Hugo). Like all things American, however, in order for this genre to evolve and prosper, it needs to allow and be allowed new influences and styles.
What are your favorite contemporary American thrillers?
This is the original Missing Person poster for the Honorable Joseph F. Crater, gone missing on August 6, 1930. The story of Judge Crater is one of the most interesting unsolved cases in New York--the New York State Supreme Court Justice was last seen leaving a restaurant near Times Square, and simply disappeared.
80 years later, the case is still alive in the public consciousness (here's a quick primer for those who are unfamiliar with Judge Crater). Beloved Overlook author Peter Quinn has taken this story and woven together true crime and historical fiction in The Man Who Never Returned (coming August 5, 2010). Private investigator Fintan Dunne, the hero of The Hour of the Cat, is hired in 1955 to solve the crime.
Here's a picture of Peter Quinn holding one of the first copies of his new book fresh off the presses.
Early Praise for The Man Who Never Returned:
"Quinn delivers a satisfying solution to the real-life mystery of Joseph Crater... Quinn not only makes the existence of clues at such a late date plausible but also concocts an explanation that's both logical and surprising. The depth and complexity of the lead character is a big plus." --Publishers Weekly (starred review)
"Freely mixing history, mystery, and novelistic license, Quinn offers a noirish tale... Quinn’s rich, insightful, evocative descriptions of New York, both in Crater’s time and in 1955, will certainly please fans of historical crime novels." --Booklist
"This hybrid of mystery and history builds a compelling case." --Kirkus
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Ahh, days off, why do you have to end? FOr the last few weeks, we've been fortunate enough for our days off to fall on the same two days. It's been really nice. We've built a porch, made some fun little trips, worked in the house a bit. In the next few, that'll change a little, my boss is going out of town, so my
Susan Hill's latest Simon Serralier mystery, SHADOWS IN THE STREET, went on sale in the U.S. last Thursday, and we're thrilled to see that others are loving her wonderful work as much as we are. Did you miss her review in the New York Times? See below for the full review and some other praise that has been rolling in for SHADOWS IN THE STREET.
"As every Trollope reader knows, English cathedral towns can be hotbeds of viciousness and vice. And so it is in Lafferton, where Susan Hill sets her thoughtful mysteries. As if it weren’t bad enough that flesh traffickers from Eastern Europe have been deploying a small army of underage prostitutes on the edge of town in THE SHADOWS IN THE STREET (Overlook, $24.95), the unpopular new dean of the cathedral, a “happy-clappy” Anglican evangelical, and his overbearing wife (“the Mrs. Proudie of St. Michael’s”) are hell-bent on saving the souls of these “Magdalenes,” whether they like it or not. Simon Serrailler, the brooding detective hero, doesn’t appear on the scene until a serial killer begins picking off some of the local working girls who’ve been displaced by the foreign competition. But his absence allows Hill to direct her elegant prose to other characters, especially Serrailler’s widowed sister, observed in depth as she struggles to live with her grief." -- The New York Times
“This is the fifth of Hill's exceptional series (after The Various Haunts of Men, The Pure in Heart, The Risk of Darkness, and The Vows of Silence). Her characters continue to be intelligent and engaging, and the perfect balance of drama, atmosphere, and suspense holds the reader to the very last page. Highly recommended for fans of thoughtful British mysteries, especially those written by P.D. James, Martha Grimes, and Tana French.” -- Library Journal (starred review)
“It is really the characters that are so strong in these novels and even the minor characters are brought to life... As usual, I thoroughly enjoyed this book.” -- Canadian Bookworm Blog
“Hill continues to engage us with fresh characters and intriguing story lines.” -- MostlyFiction.com
"Right from its rain drenched opening lines, Shadows draws the reader into its bleak landscape. Hill is a master at creating atmosphere – the autumn chill hovering over the town seeps right into the story, and tightens its hold on the reader as the plot hurtles towards its climax… strong writing, taut pace and finely etched characters” -- BookPleasures.com
The Camelot Conspiracy E. Duke Vincent Kirkus Reviews May 2011, Overlook
An action novel from veteran TV writer and producer Vincent (Mafia Summer, 2005, etc.) about the Kennedy assassination.
With a cast of Mafia dons, politicians, the CIA, the FBI and a snake's nest of anti- and pro-Castro Cubans, the novel piles conspiracy atop conspiracy. It's 1959, and communist Castro has overthrown Batista. Eisenhower plans an invasion by anti-Castro elements. JFK gives the go-ahead but ruins the plan by seeking "plausible deniability." Next come plots, schemes and covert missions to assassinate Castro: by the Mafia, which wants its Havana casinos back; by anti-Castro elements who want their country back; and by the CIA, which wants a Soviet ally overthrown. Vincent relates the story in dozens of short, one-scene chapters covering everything from the failed Bay of Pigs invasion to the Cuban Missile Crisis. His knowledge of mobsters and bureaucrats, and the ugly underbelly of glitzy places like Las Vegas and Miami, lends an air of believability. The protagonist is Dante Amato, war hero turned mafioso with a CIA agent brother. Amato makes two forays into Cuba attempting to kill Castro, one accompanied by the beautiful Cuban refuge Marissa del Valle, a Bryn Mawr graduate willing to bed Fidel if the assignation presents an opportunity to poison him. Vincent does a fine job of moving the bull’s-eye from Castro to JFK, conjuring up the blood-lust resentment of mobster Sam Giancana, who delivered Chicago for the Kennedy campaign, only to be pursued even more fanatically by Robert Kennedy. Characterizations are generally superficial, with Dante realistically amoral rather than heroic, but the author makes intriguing use of historical characters, including E. Howard Hunt, CIA operative turned Watergate burglar. Thrillers thrive on a conspiracy burning away like a fuse on a bomb. With this novel, Vincent strikes a fictional match and explodes the supposed cover-ups, machinations and disinformation surrounding the Kennedy assassination.
Have you read this book? Rate it:
Note: There is a rating embedded within this post, please visit this post to rate it.Reading level: Ages 12 and up
Publisher’s synopsis: If you had the chance to change one thing about yourself, what would you be willing to give up in exchange?
Fifteen-year-old Will Besting is sent by his doctor to Fort Eden, an institution meant to help patients suffering from crippling phobias. Once there, Will and six other teenagers take turns in mysterious fear chambers and confront their worst nightmares-with the help of the group facilitator Rainsford, an enigmatic guide. When the patients emerge from the chamber, they feel emboldened by the previous night’s experiences. But each person soon discovers strange, unexplained aches and pains…What is really happening to the seven teens trapped in this dark Eden?
Patrick Carman’s DARK EDEN is a provocative exploration of fear, betrayal, memory, and ultimately, immortality.
Describe your latest book: Right now, I've got a bunch of different things going on, most of them having to do with the interface of science and literature. I'm developing a show for HBO called Emoticons about punctuation that can turn into robots, but at the same time I'm doing some neuroscience research. It's about [...]
Cheyenne Mitchell writes fast-paced, supernatural thrillers. Her first novel, In The Light of Darkness, was published in 2007.
Hi Cheyenne, please tell everyone a little about yourself.
Cheyenne: I have a Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism/Communication, I was born in Philadelphia, Pa, and I’ve always loved reading fast-paced, exciting novels of which my favorite of all time is entitled The Captains and The Kings by Taylor Caldwell. It’s an over a thousand page novel I read in about four days during the early 1980s. I love writing, singing, dancing, and being with God and family most of all.
When did the writing bug bite, and in what genre (s)?
Cheyenne: My love of writing began at the age of six years old when I was in the first grade. I loved writing poetry, and my favorite Poet has always been Mr. Edgar Allan Poe whose writings were dark, but very heart-felt. I have always been attracted to the supernatural/thrillers with a touch of drama, which is what I myself love to write about.
When you started writing, what goals did you want to accomplish? Is there a message you want readers to grasp?
Cheyenne: I wrote my first supernatural thriller/drama In The Light of Darkness in 1993. It took me three years to write it because I was working full time then. My goal has always been to become a rich and famous novelist, and still is. The message I want readers to grasp from my writings is “what if” this could happen? Or what if this happened to you? I aim to make my protagonists and their problems very identifiable to readers so they can sympathize with them, and to keep them on the edge of their seats with nail-biting suspense and mystery in the process.
Briefly tell us about your latest book. Is it part of a series or stand-alone?
Cheyenne: I have two supernatural thrillers on the market right now. One is entitled The Covering which is the story of two, teenage sisters who cannot figure out what is going on with their family members who are very strange. Celia, who is the protagonist, will take readers on an incredible and exciting journey as she endeavors, along with her sister, Drew, to find out what their family members are hiding from them. It is a novel filled with terror and lots of shock for readers. My other novel, Syroia, is the story of a young man who is only one member of a family who has been tormented for generations by the demonic spirit of a long-dead murderer. However, the spirit he sees after every killing is NOT the one who has actually been terrorizing him, and many others in his family. The Covering is receiving all FIVE stars, and Syroia as well from reviewers.
What is the hook for the book?
Cheyenne: In The Covering: What if nearly two hundred year old vampires were raising two normal, teenage girls who are their own flesh and blood? In Syroia: What if a terrible spirit of someone you never knew is after your soul, but is really someone closer to you than you would ever believe?
How do you develop characters? Setting?
Cheyenne: I must say that all of my inspiration, creativity, and imagination come directly from God ALONE, and nowhere else. It is li
Julie Rose reviews R.J. Ellory's thriller A Quiet Belief in Angelsin the current issue of Historical Novels Review: "A Quiet Belief in Angelsfollows narrator Joseph Vaughan, an author, who recounts the story of his life, from his time as a child in rural Georgia in the early 1940s to a hot, dark hotel room in 1960s New York City, where we learn that Joseph has just shot a man. Previously published in over 20 languages and a bestseller in the UK, A Quiet Belief in Angels is the first of Ellory’s books to be available in the US. In a series of flashbacks and flash forwards, Joseph tells the story of his life, wreathed in heartache and tragedy, defined by a series of child mutilations and murders in his own hometown. When he finally escapes Georgia and moves to New York City to chase his dream of becoming a writer, he finds that has not escaped, and that tragedy and death itself has followed him. Ellory renders mid-20th century America convincingly, with a good sense of place and time, through both description and realistic dialogue. That said, while the Georgia sections ring particularly true, the Manhattan passages suffer from too many historical details shoe-horned in. However, those quibbles are minor. This is a gripping mystery, beautifully written."
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Pretty generic night at work, considering it was a full moon. I think the fridgid cold kept most of the nuts at home, cuddled up with their mescalin and strawberry cheesecake tyrannosauruses. Although my cashier's constant, almost manic, good moods are starting to drive me crazy.
What are twelve good reasons to join the Hard Case Crime
Life carried on when we returned to Poky. I wouldn't say it got back to normal, but things weren't too bad. The main thing was my arm. I started getting extremely claustrophobic at times, I'd get shaky and nervous, sick to my stomach. I also noticed the cold a lot more, getting hot and cold flashes seemingly at random, with the cold always starting in my right arm. I suppose that it
Reviews Of Unusual Size -
Man, I've read five books since William Lashner's book review on the 25th. I've gotta get out of this office position before I run out of books!
UNDER THE LAKEby Stuart Woods1999, 368 pages
1 - A departure for Woods, Under The Lake is a supernatural thriller, complete with ghosts, murder, sex and hillbillys!
2 - The main character, while a decent enough