Wednesday, February 27, 2013



C. Neuroticus Absolutus

You stare at a blank page wondering what words to write. What words will grab the reader's attention and get him or her to put your book in the digital shopping cart? Attention grabbing words like those describing a shot ringing out just as the papal procession passes. Do your words need to excite, like those depicting thundering hoof beats as a courageous horse streaks towards the finish line with a frail heart that's about to burst? Will your words strike fear as a tiger stalks a preteen girl lost in the jungle? Will your words capture the unforgettable fragrance of a rosebud as it bursts open? Will your words evoke the reader's passion as the forbidden lovers embrace and kiss in a clandestine paradise?
You while away an hour, thumbing the pages of your well-worn Thesaurus, looking for just the right words, those words that will introduce your Great American Novel.
Still your your page is bare. Maybe you could hire an artist to convey the dark, bloody scene of the murder you're planning for the opening. But that would be switching from mental to visual artistry. And it wouldn't even be your art.
Well, maybe your problem isn't in your choice of words at all.
It's not easy to write words when you don't know what your story is about. Is that your problem?
Writing is story telling. If you haven't defined the story you're about to write, haven't chosen a route from point A (the beginning) to point C (the end), you'll likely never get there. Of course, Point B is everything between point A and Point C.
While you've got that blank page up on your word processor, write a few paragraphs, or pages even, and tell your story like you're talking to an old friend. Don't stop to look for synonyms, to check punctuation, to determine the correct conjugation of a verb, to decide whether or not to use an adverb or even worry about spelling. Write the story as fast as you can. Then read your story aloud and imagine each actor, action, and each scene. Can you see it? Is that the story you want to tell? If it is, than you're ready to decide your actual starting point.
Will it start as the killer silently watches his prey as he stealthily closes in, or when the point of his knife penetrates the pale skin of the innocent damsel's neck?
Will it start as the dragon crushes its prey's ribs between its fiery jaws or when it opens its reptilian eyes from slumber and hears the footsteps of an intruder in it's lair?
Or perhaps it starts when the eyes of soon-to-be lovers first meet across a room?
You see, you still have to choose what words to use. That's your first decision. Point A, the starting point. But now it's easier to choose the words. Don't worry. You may decide later that you favor a different starting point. Perhaps you've wasted words before you got to the real starting point of your story. That happens often with beginning writers as they try to set up the scene. Check out the following two-paragraph story beginning:
Paragraph One
It was a dreary day. The windshield wipers clacked a steady rhythm as I listened to Adele's latest song on the new HD Audio system I'd just had installed at Best Buy. Got it on sale. Great price! I'd just waxed my Porsche and was miffed, not just about the rain, but also about the UPS truck that got in front me and kept splashing torrents of oily road water on my car. Knuckle-dragging cretin!
Paragraph Two
I got my Glock 19 from the overstuffed glove compartment and moved around a UPS truck, still certain Lady Gotham hadn't seen me following her. I inched forward into her blind spot and held steady. As we entered a tunnel, I guided my Porsche alongside her, rolled down my passenger window, took aim and shot. She never saw me. I goosed the Porsche and flew out of the tunnel ahead of her. In the rear view mirror, I saw her drift across lanes, broadside a pickup, bounce away into the tunnel wall and spin around. Her car flipped over as the UPS truck T-boned her. Traffic behind them became a pile of scrap metal.”
Rot in hell, bitch!”
Notice that Paragraph One adds nothing directly relevant to the story. Delete it.
The story begins with the first word of Paragraph Two. Check to ensure that your opening paragraph is pertinent to the story and includes no extraneous words like overstuffed as in Paragraph Two above. With, “I got my Glock 19 from the glove compartment,” the interest and excitement begins, not just for the paragraph, but for the story.
Most fairy tales begin with something like, “Once upon a time, there was a handsome prince . . .” Did you ever wonder why? It's a slick, very successful gimmick to immediately let the reader know a fairy tale follows (a specific sub-genre), what it's about (probably a fantasy romancethe prince is handsome), and who it's about (a handsome prince). The fact that you've can discern this much from the first sentence should alert the writer as to how important the first words are. Look at the first sentence above (Paragraph Two): “I got my Glock 19 from the glove compartment and moved around a UPS truck, still certain Lady Gotham hadn't seen me following her.” Without further ado, the reader knows who the narrator is, that he has gun, the make of the gun, and that he's probably trying to kill Lady Gotham. By the end of the first sentence, the reader is either interested or not. That's why the first words are important. The reader gets hooked and gets the book from the shelf and into the shopping cart. By the end of the first paragraph, (Paragraph Two above) the reader knows that the narrator is a killer, that Lady Gotham is dead, and the reader is left wondering why. One question this mystery must resolve is why Lady Gotham was killed.
That's in the unwritten contract between the writer and the reader.
Okay. Now you know. No more blank pages. Just remember: It's all about telling the story. So go tell your story. Process some words!

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Book Review
First Time Killer

By Alan S. Orloff

Reviewed by Wayne L. White

Sneaky. Deceitful. Lying first time killer is only a first-time killer the first time. But the psycho bastard keeps on killing and killing. If you're a fan of talk radio and hinky horror stories, step into the studio at WTLK syndicated talk radio with Rick Jennings, silver-tongued slick talker who controls the mayhem on the Afternoon Circus with a dubious balance between his quiet manners and the dump switch. Nice guy. Red-blooded American. Justice, baseball and apple pie, drove my Chevy to the levy kind of decent radio show jock. The kind of guy you'd give your chaste daughter a thumbs up to date. Trustful. Intelligent. You know damn well he'll have your daughter back before midnight with not as hair on her head out of place. However, he is a bit more mature than that. A satellite radio show is in the works for WTLK, it's full cast of engineers, producers and station masters, and most of allit's full complement of shock-jocks, ifIF they can get their ratings up and keep them up, they'll all share in the multimillion dollar bonanza.
First time killer gives them exactly what they need to keep their listeners Krazy Glued to their sets. As a first-time caller to the Afternoon Circus, he directs Rick to a garbage can where, while on the air, they find a severed human arm. Dump switch! Radio call-in kooks come and go like flies on watermelon, but no one has ever talked to a killer on an open mic. The show is a sensation and Ricks producer insists that they milk the killer thread for every scintilla of ratings possible. Rick disagrees, especially after one of WTLK's shock jocks turns up dead after ripping First Time a new one on syndicated air to 42 cities. We're inciting him to murder, Rick says. We're giving him the audience the psycho bastard needs to fulfill whatever sick fantasies he has.
But the ratings go up and Rick battles with his conscience and the show's producer. The police enter the mix hoping to shut the show down, First Amendment rights be damned.
Put on your earphones, ear buds. whatever you've got and tune in to Afternoon Circus and Alan Orloff's quick wit and grasp of the technicalities of talk radio broadcasting. Be forewarned as the cast of Orloff's brilliantly conceived characters leap from the page to gnaw on your patience and sense of humor. You'll scream and beg Orloff to expose the heinous killer long before he does. By the way, Alan's a damned good writer, too. Get your copy of First Time Killer before he loses it and gives them all away.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Book Review

Once Upon a December Nightmare


Cherie Reich

Reviewed by Wayne L. White

A planned winter evening at the movies for four adventurous young adults takes an unexpected turn when their venue is sold out. On a lark, James takes his three female companions for a ride along a dark, single-lane gravel road in an unknown wilderness. Denise confides to Cassie that she and James had enjoyed traveling this trail and not to worry, it comes back out on the main road up ahead.
After seven miles along the rough trail, a fallen tree blocks the road and forces them to back up to a place wide enough to turn around. The carcases of four deer lying side by side along the road in the clearing brings the first touch of fright to the girls. James turns the truck around and starts back the way they came. The uneasiness in the girl's stomachs turns to fear when the truck's lights fail. With only the thin beam of a flashlight to penetrate the darkness, James is unable to find the problem. When he returns to the driver's seat, the truck won't start.
At this point, Ms. Reich turns up the terror as the girls realize they'll have to spend the night cramped in the cold truck or walk the seven miles of dark trail back to the highway. The only thing they can agree on is thatfrom their collective experience with horror movies―you never leave the group. Whatever they do, they must do together. They abandon the truck and press into the night.
Unrecognizable sounds punctuate the darkness, heightening the tension as something appears to be following them, getting closer as they move along.
Cherie is no newbie to the fantasy genre, but jeepers creepers! with Once Upon a December Nightmare, she brings new heights to her portfolio of scare tactics, keeping her readers feasting on their fingernails. This tale is not for bedtime reading if you want to “sleep tight.” Those won't be bedbugs biting in your nightmares.
Perhaps Ms. Reich's home in Catawba, Virginia, sandwiched between the Appalachian Trail and the Otherworlds, has embellished her life with vivid childhood memories―memories of journeys to places like Dragon's Tooth and Foxwick where the lines between fantasy and reality dim. Regardless, she's at it again, and tantalizingly so. Pick up a copy of Once Upon a December Nightmare and get yourself a good five-star read and a darkened closet full of nightmares for weeks thereafter. Chills guaranteed.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Book Review

Mad Max: Unintended Consequences


Betsy Ashton

Reviewed by Wayne L. White

Betsy Ashton's first novel portends well for her budding career as an author. From the start, Ms. Ashton engages the reader in the upper-class New York Sac's Fifth Avenue world of grandmothers who take pleasure in their station in life and the money that supports their material desires. But life has another role for Maxine Davies. An automobile accident puts her daughter Merry in the hospital with serious injuries and Max rushes to Richmond, Virginia and her daughter's bedside where she takes over her daughter's role in raising her two grandchildren, Emilie and Alex. A son-in-law whose work keeps him away from home for protracted periods complicates matters and Max immediately finds herself the sole caretaker of her precocious grandchildren―not so demanding, but ties Max to Richmond while she yearns for her friends and the concrete canyons of New York.
When Merry is finally released from the hospital, she is mentally incapable of tending to the needs of her children, leaving it all to Max who clearly states that she's done enough child raising for one lifetime. Meanwhile, Merry has developed a relationship with a plastic surgeon who has a mesmerizing hold on his patient and has taken control of Merry's life and decisions.
The delicious plot thickens at this point and I won't be a spoiler. But as I mentioned to Betsy, “My Kindle is about to explode. Someone is going to die!” Max and her grandchildren suddenly become the hunted and the hunters. You won't put it down, so don't plan to read it to calm your mind before sleep.
From a population of well-developed characters to the scenic background of New York and Richmond to the world of grandchildren with special abilities, Ms. Ashton adorns each passage with page-turning urgency. Mad Max: Unintended Consequences not only satisfies, but leaves the reader impatiently waiting for the next chapter in the life of five-star Mad Max.