Wednesday, January 25, 2006

2006 Novel #3: Rogue Wave

This is one of those novels that get mentioned in "How to write a freakin' good mystery" books. Kiernan O' Saughnessy wrote a series with her forensic pathologist turned PI protag. I'd have to give it an okay rating. The protag was good, strong, feisty female lead. Using San Francisco as a setting always seems to be a winner. She threw in a lot of forensic detail. Unfortunately, I didn't see that detail as necessary. She spent a lot of time proving that a drowning victim was bashed in the head before going overboard. But we'd already assumed the guy was murdered through other routes. Namely, that the woman on the boat was still alive and hiding. So the mystery wasn't terribly hard to figure out. There were no surprise bad guys. The only real mystery was the information contained on a memo that no one could find. You had no clues as to what might be on it in advance, so it wasn't much of an "aha!" moment when you found out.

Now, onto a huge pet peeve of mine. I'm a Christian. I know, when I read a secular novel, there might be language and sex scenes. If the book is offensive in the first few chapters, I can toss it. Kiernan fooled me. She was well behaved--just a smattering of language--for most of the book. Then, on the last page, she takes the Lord's name in vain in the worst possible way. You know the one--my Savior's name with an "F" bomb dropped in the middle. What editor didn't flag this? She set the tone for a light, non-offensive mystery, then nails this on at the end. I don't think I'm being over-sensitive. An author sets a contract with the reader at the beginning of the book. At the beginning of the book we have non-Christian characters who drop a swear word on occasion, but nothing too bad. You can't just break that agreement at the end of the book.

Okay, off my horse now. The book was written in '91, so I'm not going to kill any sales here. I think Gina is right, I should stick to the CBA.

Saturday, January 21, 2006


It's funny how I can read one of Jesus' parables, completely understand it, and then completely ignore His teaching. My favorite is the Parable of the Sower. Jesus tells the story of a farmer who tosses out his seeds. Some fall on hard ground, where the birds gobble them up. Some fall on rocky, shallow soil, where they grow, but because they have no roots, the die quickly. Some fall in fertile soil, where they multiply thirty or a hundred fold. No, I didn't skip one, I just saved for last the part of the parable that references me, and probably most of the people I know. Some of the seed fell in among thorns, where they were choked out. Of course, the thorns represent the worries and business of life. Shall I list my thorns? Oh, let's!

Ron's Thorns:
1. Earning my MBA
2. Writing my novel
3. Running the Wednesday children's program at church
4. Teaching a God & Country class
5. Writing this blog
6. Worrying about my weight
7. Woodworking projects
8. House upkeep
9. Lawn maintenance (snow right now)
10. Job worries
11. Reading novels
12. Kid's activities (we start them young in the thornbush, don't we?)
13. Critiquing my partner's work

That looks like a good list. Funny thing is, many of those are what we'd consider good and wholesome activities. After all, what's wrong with writing my novel? Or running the kid's church program? Nothing, really, but look at the list. That's 13 I worry about on pretty much a daily basis. Devotion and prayer get squeezed in between 7 & 8, or 2 & 3, wherever I can find the time. In the end, all 13 suffer. But, most of all, my spiritual life suffers. No wonder Jesus made a big point of not worrying. That's all I do!

Okay, I'm done venting. Time to go shovel the thorns...uh, snow.

Monday, January 16, 2006

A Table by the Window

Novel #2 for 2006: A Table by the Window by Lawana Blackwell

I'm not sure why I'm drawn to novels like this. Though it had a hint of mystery and suspense, it was actually more of a general fiction, coming of age type of story. The heroine, Carly Reed is a woman with a troubled past. Abused as a child by the boyfriends of her alcoholic mother, she seeks to rediscover both her family and herself. She moves from the Bay Area to a small Mississippi town, where antique shops and college football fill most conversations.

I think I like any book that involves discovering the simple pleasures of life--front porches and cool summer evenings, family dinners, iced tea on a hot day. That's what Carly does. She also opens a cafe, takes in a troubled girl, and dates the Chief of Police who has a nice dark secret. I won't ruin it.

It's a good, relaxing, low suspense read. Lawana Blackwell writes a slow paced novel, as one like this should be. No nail biting until the very end and for a short time. A beautiful story of lost souls coming to Christ and restoring faith.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

A Place for Slackers

It's been a week since I posted. I'm slacking big time. But I have several excellent excuses:
1. Winter semester and 2 classes this term (MBA).
2. Horrible week at work.
3. Fantastic week at work (I have several bosses as I push toward communications and away from engineering).
4. I'm lazy

But I'm back now. Besides, it was do this or change my oil now that the temperatures are back in the normal January range of lower 20s. We hit 53 this week. Convertable tops were down. Only in the north. Especially in Motown.

The novel writing is about as slow now as it's ever been. I knew it was coming. But I'm doing so much writing between my new responsibilities at work and my classes, which are pretty much all writing.

On a brighter note, spring is only 9 months away and I discovered Google Earth this week. At first I thought "big deal." But then I realized that I could actually zoom in on city streets I've used in my novel. It beats the heck out of driving to Dallas. And Ronie was getting sick of making road trips to check my facts. I showed my son the shipyards at Norfolk and San Diego. Then we zoomed in on Pearl Harbor for a look at the USS Missouri (she's a museum there now) and the USS Arizona Memorial. You can see the Arizona under the water, too. Some of the higher resolution photos are a year old or more, but it's still useful.

Anyway (I hate starting a sentence with "Anyway"), you can download the Google Earth software at It's worth the trip.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

California Girl

Novel #1 for 2006: California Girl by T. Jefferson Parker.

California Girl is a mystery with a bit of suspense set in the mid to late 1960s in Orange County, California. Obviously, Parker takes advantage of this locale and uses the exploding drug scene to make for a very colorful setting. He does it tastefully, though, and does an excellent job of fairly portraying all sides of the issues of the day.

The story centers around the murder of a young woman. The extremely beautiful and disturbed Janelle Vonn, who is found beheaded in an abandoned orange packing house. Parker throws out some red herrings, even includes Timothy Leary as a possible suspect at one point. That's another thing I loved about the book. Parker includes guest appearances by Richard Nixon, Timothy Leary, and even Charles Manson in his pre-Helter Skelter period. One of our protags (there are three, but one at the center) even gets into a bit of a brawl with Manson outside a bar. Not a smart move, had he known the future.

Parker uses a style in this book in which he uses short, choppy sentences, leaving out the pronouns (ie. Andy fired up the car. Drove toward the beach. Sun setting low over the Pacific.) It made for a story that moved quickly, although at some points I got a bit tired of it.

The best part of the book for me was the historical touches. I was just a baby in the late 60s, but I like reading about times close to my childhood. Parker takes every opportunity to mention gas prices, cool new cars, etc. His main protag, Nick Becker, is a new homicide detective, and uses the latest in forensics to nail his killer. In 1968, it wasn't much. Nick is a visionary, though, and sees forensics and profiling as the way of the future. Obviously, Parker was able to gift his character with this great foresight, having written the novel in the 21st century, but it was still fun.

As far as the mystery element, I wasn't surprised by the identity of the killer. That didn't bother me, because the rest of the story was so well done.

There is some explitive language, though kept to a minimum. The violence isn't graphic and there are no sex scenes (which must have been tough to leave out given the place and period). I highly recommend California Girl to any aspiring mystery writer or anyone who just loves a good read.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Story Board

I've found, during my brief stint on this planet, that the best way to learn something is to teach it. Not that I would ever charge money to teach something I knew little about. You'll notice a new link on my blog here to Story Board. This is a joint effort between me and my good friends, Robin Miller, Ronie Kendig, and Dineen Miller.

We were looking for a way to entertain, educate, and learn while doing something fun. What we came up with is a blog where we can write a story, Round Robin style, where each of the four of us adds a bit to the story each week.

One of the biggest problems a new writer faces is developing believable characters. So, to give us a little practice, we're each creating a character and plopping him or her into the middle of our story world. We're inviting our friends to comment on our posts as we go. I'm hoping it'll get really silly. Otherwise we would need a plot.

I see great things happening in 2006 for me and my friends. God is working in the world of Christian Fiction. I'm excited for what the new year holds for us. I hope you are, too. Story Board is one step. Be sure to stop in and see what's going on from time to time. I think you'll enjoy it.

Happy New Year!