I is for In Death

Unknown-2JD Robb has written 53 books in the In Death series in the past 21 years.  That’s a huge number of books.  (Some of these are novellas that appear in anthologies, but it’s still impressive.)

The books center around Eve Dallas, a police lieutenant in the New York Police Department, and her husband Roarke, multi-billionare businessman and former criminal. There are also multiple supporting characters that make regular appearances.

Each book centers around one or more murder that Dallas must solve.  As the series has continued, Roarke assists her more and more often.

I love reading these books, but I’ve also started studying them from a writer’s perspective.  If you’d ask me, I would have told you I didn’t think that a character arc could span over 53+ books, but I would have been wrong.

Dallas and Roarke have continued to develop, as a couple and as individuals.  Though the focus tends to be on them and their relationship, the other characters in the universe are interesting and often experience character growth of their own.  I love the fact that a married couple can continue to be the subject of a series; too often the curtain drops just after the wedding, but that’s not real life.  They argue, they compromise, they have past lovers, and yet they navigate it together.

Each story shares characteristics, but they’re not formulaic.   There are multiple series subplots, like Dallas’s past, and information about these is doled out over time.  It’s masterful the way Robb keeps my interest in these subplots.  She drags them out for just the right amount of time so that they never get stale, but also never turn into an info dump.

The books are thrillers with elements of romance and science fiction, and while the science fiction might not please hard-core sci-fi fans, they’re always a good story.

More than anything, I want the stories I tell to be compelling and interesting.  I think that’s the best rule for any author: tell a good story.

“Life is never as long as we want it to be, and wasted time can never be recovered.”
― J.D. Robb

In Death, a Review

On Throwback Thursdays, I review older books.

The first “In Death” book was published in 1995, and #41 is scheduled to be released this fall.

Naked in Death is the first in the series, and it introduces Eve Dallas, a hard edged “murder cop” in New York City, circa 2058.  Dallas is the main character throughout the series.  Each book has her conducting at least one investigation into a murder.  In this first book, she must investigate the murder of a senator’s granddaughter.  She also meets Roarke, an Irish gazillionare with a secretive past.

The books have a little bit of everything: romance, mystery, intrigue.  Amazingly, JD Robb has not repeated the same story twice.  They’re new and interesting.

One of my favorite things about this series is that Dallas and Roarke get together over the course of several books and (spoiler alert) eventually marry.  However, we’re not left with a happily-ever-after romance book ending romance.  They argue like real married people, have conflicts, and continue to learn more and more about one another.

Dallas develops friendships and builds relationships, and some of these people stay a part of the world.  Her relationships with others are complex and interesting.  While you could pick up any book in the series and enjoy it, I think they’re much more enjoyable as part of a series.  The people within the pages of this book have become my friends; people I can root for and really enjoy seeing triumph.

Don’t get me wrong; all the characters have flaws.  But that makes them even more real and endearing to me.

If you like a little bit of everything, mixed up and tied together with a good murder mystery, this may be the series for you.

How I Live Now

by The TV Guy

thI was flipping through the “Popular on Netflix” streaming and came across a movie that at first, I misread the caption. I thought it stated the main character met someone before the second the world war and settled in for a bit of a period piece. Much to my surprise, a bleached blond girl with big bulky ear phones and nose piercing is being ushered through a security checkpoint of a modern European airport.
Soon after her arrival, WWIII starts with a nuclear blast in London and the family she has come to see is separated from each other. The movie becomes a story of survival and getting back to the farm. It makes for an interesting yet sad movie. This is a foreign film, so be prepared for the darkness of the non-American films. There is plenty of pain and death and still there is that part of the movie where you watch and wait hoping that things will get better.

The Word “Genre” Gives Me a Headache

I can't figure out her genre either.

I can’t figure out her genre either.

Actually, not only does the word give me a headache, but it also kind of makes me want to cry.  Normally, I just call my book “Young Adult” and move on, but it’s not quite YA.  The main characters are 18 and 20, a little older than the typical YA characters.  I supposed I could just chop two years off their ages, but it seems a little contrived.

My next pick for genre would be science fiction.  Only, it’s not heavy into the science.  The science is there.  And it’s set in 2073.  But science isn’t the main thing, and I wouldn’t want to mislead people who are looking for Battlefield Earth by L. Ron Hubbard or Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton.

There’s also some fantasy.  Just a little, but it’s there.  Oh yeah, and there’s romance.

So where does it fall?  I’ve looked everywhere, and Google has tried hard to help, but it’s fallen short, and I’m not finding any real answers.  Maybe because there aren’t any?

I get why books should be classified by genre.  Readers need to know what they’re getting into so that they can assess if they’re going to like the thing or not.  And since I read YA and like YA, I can honestly say it’s most similar to YA.

But… what if the people I’m submitting it to don’t agree.  (I am in no way comparing myself to Dean Koontz with this next comment.)  Dean Koontz said that when he was just starting off as an author, he drove editors crazy with his mixed genre books, because they were a little of everything.  I get it.  Life is a mixed genre, which is why I write that way.

During my search of 4,981 blogs and articles, I think what it boils down to is that genre should be the closest match to what readers of similar books will enjoy.  People who read the The Mortal Instruments by Cassandra Clare and Divergent by Veronica Roth would probably be the ones who’d like my book, so Young Adult it is.  Did you see how I went in a giant circle just to get back where I started?

Why all the hubbub, you ask?  Well, I’m entering Amazon’s Breakthrough Novel Award.  Stay tuned and I’ll keep you posted.  Cross your fingers that I make it past the first round.  Now that I’ve gotten my genre picked out, I need to write a pitch.  How do I feel about pitches?

This isn't anyone I know... Thank you, Internet, for the picture of the random man.

This isn’t anyone I know… Thank you, Internet, for the picture of the random cranky man.

A Beautiful Thing

Bahamas... this picture is a mini-vacation.

Bahamas… this picture is a mini-vacation.

I’d hit a dry spell with writing for awhile, where I mostly couldn’t think of any fiction.  I tried to find ideas for stories… and nothing.  I’d try to sit down and write, and it just didn’t work for me.

It didn’t help that I’ve been busy.  I started a new job, it’s Christmas, and I’ve been sick.  But a funny thing happened the other night while I was making Christmas cookies… an idea popped into my head.  I saw these two characters, clear as day in my head.  I knew who they were, what they wanted, and why it would be hard for them to be together, even though they wanted to.  The beginning, middle, and end came to me.  They’re in my head; they talk to me during the day.  They tell me their secrets.

It’s been a long time since I’ve had something so compelling in my head, and I’m pretty excited about it.  I still don’t have time, but because it’s important, I can find time, even if it’s only 20 minutes.  I guess in some ways I’ve been blocked.  I’ve been writing blogs, but three years into it, it’s a routine for me.  I’ve never quite made the fiction writing part of my life into a routine, probably because it’s more fun than chore.

So I have a new story in my head, and I’m making new friends.

It’s a beautiful thing.

My Name is Memory- A Review

UnknownI read My Name is Memory by Ann Brashares on a recommendation from someone else, and I didn’t realize until I was done that it’s written by the author of the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants.  (Which I’ve never read)

I loved this book.  It’s nice how many different awesome books I’ve been reading lately.  It’s the story of Daniel, who has memory of all his past lives, and he’s loved Sophia/ Lucy but been star-crossed in every one.  When he finds her in this life and tells her what they are to one another, he scares her off, and he believes that he’s lost her again.  Many of the chapters are from their past lives and how their love has developed over hundreds of years.

The only problem with this book was the ending.  It’s not that I didn’t like the ending, but that things weren’t quite resolved.  I saw a rumor on Amazon that this was supposed to be part of a trilogy, but I see no evidence of this on the author’s website, and this was written in 2010, so I think that’s probably false.

Either way, despite the not-quite-satisfying ending, I loved the book and would cautiously recommend it.

The Fault In Our Stars- A Review

UnknownThe Fault in Our Stars, by John Green, is new to my favorites books list.  The author is careful to state that the book is non-fiction.  It’s about Hazel, who has been terminally ill with cancer since she was 13.  She’s now 17, and knows she’s lived longer than she should have.  Her mother thinks she’s depressed and makes her go to a cancer support group, where she meets Augustus.

Augustus lost a leg to cancer, but is now in remission.  He and Hazel share a dark and unique sense of humor that made me laugh even while it made me think.  Despite Hazel’s death sentence, she and Augustus fall in love.

There’s more to this story, much more, but I wouldn’t want to spoil even a moment for you.  For some people, this book might be depressing, and I’ll admit that there were times it made me cry.  But the fact that the kids lived despite so many things is uplifting to me.

I raced through this book and then bought it.  I can’t wait for it to show up so that I can highlight parts of it.  Yes, THAT’S how much I loved it.

Highly, highly, highly recommend it.  I need to borrow other people’s thumbs in order to give it enough thumb’s up.

Bad Endings

Photo Credit: Doree Weller

Photo Credit: Doree Weller

We’ve all seem movies or read books with bad endings.  I still haven’t forgiven Lionsgate for the original Saw.  Great movie, no ending.  Don’t even get me started on Hannibal.  Thomas Harris wrote a great book, but they ruined the ending for moviegoing audiences.

I’ve just heard that they re-filmed that last 4o minutes of World War Z after it got bad reviews from test audiences.  Is this really how Hollywood does things?  They take a book that people enjoyed, and make it into a movie because they have a built-in audience, but change the ending because now, suddenly, people didn’t like it?

Sometimes we have to take risks.  As authors (and presumably readers), we know what feels right as far as endings.  I’ve read books and watched movies that seemed to have discordant endings at first, but on further reflection, were just right.  I love it when I have to think it through.

That being said, I don’t want to have to think about things when I’m reading or watching things I consider “junk food” for the brain.  I love romance novels, but they’re not exactly cerebral, and I don’t want them to be.  If I’m reading a romance novel, it’s because I want a sexy, strong hero, a stubborn, strong woman, and a happily ever after ending.  If I’m reading a horror novel or watching a horror movie, I don’t mind as everyone dies, as long as it fits.  And my biggest pet peeve is that I want it to end!  Not everything has to be tied up neatly for me, but the ending has to feel purposeful, not lazy, and not as if they’re gratuitously leaving it open-ended so that it it’s popular, there can be a sequel.

Personally, I think endings are just about the most important part of the book/ movie.  Because if I dislike the ending, even if I loved every other bit of the story, I write off the whole thing.

Beautiful Disaster- A Review

images-1I read Beautiful Disaster twice.  Back to back.  Over 5 days.

The first time I read it, I stayed up until 2 a.m.  I’d just gotten done working a 14 hour day and knew I had to go back into work the next day for at least 10 hours.  But I couldn’t help myself.  It was so good that I had to finish it.  And since it was such a good book, I wasn’t the least bit tired.

It’s a boy-meets-girl novel with all the stuff that comes along with it.  Abby and Travis’s relationship is dysfunctional, and unlike many young adult romance novels (ahem, Twilight), this one doesn’t try to pretty it up or hide it.  Jamie McGuire knows the relationship is dysfunctional, and the characters know it too, which is one of the things that makes this book so great.

This book really touched me.  I laughed at some parts and cried at others.

The book is told from Abby’s point of view, 100%.  No head hopping.  Walking Disaster, Travis’s point of view, is being released on April 2.  I very seldom buy things new, but you can bet that I’m going to be a the bookstore as soon as they open on April 2nd to get a copy of this book.  Jamie McGuire has other books, and I’m very much hoping that they’re all in the same neighborhood of greatness that this one is.

I read a few reviews online, and this seems to be a pretty polarizing book.  People either love it or they hate it.  I guess you know how I’m casting my vote!