Archive for John Sandford

A good thrill

Posted in All posts, On writing with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 7, 2008 by Trina

After last posting that I like to read, I thought I’d dedicate this post to my favorite writers. During my teenage years, I read romances and watched soaps. Eventually, I grew bored. Real life is not the happily ever after of romances, and I wanted more from the books I read. I discovered horror: Stephen King, and werewolf and vampire stories. I began to enjoy the excitement of a good scare. I also began collecting the works of Lawrence Sanders, Grisham and Crichton. After watching SILENCE OF THE LAMBS I realized that I liked psychological thrillers. I read the Hannibal series by Thomas Harris. Harris did such a good job developing Hannibal’s character that I found myself being repulsed and empathizing with Hannibal at the same time and wanting more. And so began my relationship with fictional serial killers and their catchers.

I also stumbled upon the genre of medical thrillers, thanks to Michael Palmer. The combination of medicine, science and suspense makes an awesome read. Looking for more medical thrillers, I discovered Tess Gerritsen. Gerritsen is one of my favorite authors because of the rich characters she creates, normal and flawed people who are interesting because of it. She writes from the point of view of killer, detective and medical examiner equally well. I especially like medical examiner Maura Isles’ character because she must deal with death on a daily basis, and yet is likable as a woman with insecurities like the rest of us. What I most like about Gerritsen is that she fully develops the autopsy scenes to give the reader medical details not found in any other thrillers I’ve read except for the work of Kathy Reichs.

Reichs’s series is fascinating in its detail. How Tempe Brennan can discover the age or race of a skeleton and more from just bones. Tempe’s character is also fully developed. Reichs does not, however, write from the killer’s point of view. Her pov character is always Tempe. But it works for the series. Reichs also uses humor to lighten up the heavy topics Tempe deals with, which makes an entertaining read. I like BONES, the TV series loosely based on Reich’s books. I say loosely because Television Tempe is completely different from the alcoholic divorcée with a twenty something daughter from the books.

In terms of humor, JA Konrath is the king. I discovered his detective series with star Jack (Jacqueline) Daniels after reading one of his short stories in a thriller anthology edited by James Patterson. I bought WHISKY SOUR, read it, and then bought the next three books. I laughed my way through all four books, one right after another. I didn’t want to stop to sleep, eat or work. Konrath’s is the only series I read straight through like that. He doesn’t skimp on the details. One killer drove nails into the bones of his victims, one peeled off the victim’s skin, all while the victims were alive. One scene that sticks in my memory is when one of the killers put razor blades into candy bars. The resulting scene after a detective bit into the razor blade was both graphic and humorous. The humor lightens the story and works with the graphic scenes in this series. I’ve preordered the fifth Jack Daniel’s book and can’t wait to read it.

Lucas Davenport is my favorite detective. I love John Sanford’s PREY series. In the introduction to RULES OF PREY Sanford said, “Cops don’t act like Lucas Davenport–they’d be fired or even imprisoned if they did. They aren’t rich, they don’t drive Porches, most could give a rat’s ass about fashion. Lucas Davenport does all of that. … he’s a cross between a cop and a movie star. I wanted him to be a star. I wanted him to be different. I wanted him to be a mean, tough cop that women liked.” Sanford succeeded. Davenport is a star. He’s gruff, mean and yet he’s likeable and sexy. But more importantly, John Sanford’s writing is stellar. I’d rank him with literary writers. He is a former Pulitzer Prize winning journalist, and it shows in his writing. He also draws from his experiences as a newspaper reporter, the dead bodies and crime scenes he witnessed ground his novels in reality.

I like David Baldacci for the same reason, the way he can string words together. I am in awe when I read his novels. His recent works are political thrillers that are well researched, interesting and powerful. His latest, THE WHOLE TRUTH, explored one possible scenario for the return of the cold war.

I would be remiss not to mention James Patterson. I like detective doctor Alex Cross almost as much as Lucas Davenport. The African-American psychologist detective raising several children alone in DC makes for great reading. The Cross novels are page turners. Patterson’s works may lack the depth of Gerritsen and Sanford, but I can always count on him for a good thrill.

I have only mentioned some of my favorites writers. There are many others, like Diane Chamberlain, who does a fantastic job writing about the interrelationships between people. I am happy to have such a vast selection of great literature to choose from.

Here’s to summer reading and staying cool. Temps should reach the triple digits in Raleigh this afternoon. I can’t think of a better way to spend the afternoon than sitting in the air conditioning with a good book.

To puzzle or not to puzzle

Posted in All posts, Life, On writing with tags , , , , , , , , , on May 26, 2008 by Trina

Harry and I came back Monday from a four-day weekend in Topsail Island. We took our black lab Alex and frolicked in the waves with him. It was an awesome break that we both needed. And watching our dog have so much fun swimming and chasing his ball over and through waves was worth the extra expense to bring him. Like the commercial, priceless. Aside from Harry dunking in the surf unexpectedly and losing his favorite pair of glasses, the trip was fantastic.

We didn’t take any pictures on the beach because neither of us ever remember to take them, but here is Alex on the back deck with his favorite squeak toy.
Alex with Squeaky

Alex carried Squeaky around everywhere at Topsail Island, just like he does at home. It is so comical to see a 90 pound labrador with a squeak toy. At one point Squeaky fell of the second floor deck and we had to restrain Alex from jumping over the railing to get him.

And that finally brings me to the topic of this post. When Harry and I have downtime on vacation or even relaxing at home on a Saturday afternoon, Harry likes to work crossword puzzles and I like to read novels. At Topsail, I finished David Baldacci’s latest THE WHOLE TRUTH, which was very powerful, and started one of the PREY series by John Sandford. But I digress, I love to read. If I was to sit and work a crossword, I’d be frustrated and bored and probably end up burning the paper and breaking up my pencil into pieces. Harry says working crosswords keeps his mind sharp and makes him a better writer. I have to agree with him. Harry has the most extensive vocabulary of anyone I’ve ever known. I have yet to find a word that he doesn’t know. So am I missing out by not forcing myself to work crossword puzzles? I find reading novels in the genre I’m writing makes me a better writer. I’d much rather read a book.

Is it better to puzzle or to read? What do other writers do in your downtime and what do you do to sharpen your writing skills?

This question won’t be much of an issue for me for awhile. I simply don’t have a lot of downtime. It has been a busy time for me developing questions for state tests. By the time I sit at the computer for ten hours or so editing test questions, I just don’t feel like writing anything, not even this blog. But that’s what they pay me the “big” bucks for, and I like developing tests–it just means I won’t be posting as frequently for awhile.

Also, I’m looking forward to a trip to central New York to visit my daughter and grandson. I’m leaving on Wednesday and I can’t wait.

Blogging is bad for fiction writers

Posted in All posts, On writing with tags , , , , on May 24, 2007 by Trina

Imagination will often carry us to worlds that never were. But without it we go nowhere. ~ Carl Sagan

A new title for this blog coincides with a new focus on the worlds that can be reached with the imagination.

After some soul searching, and after reading an entry with the title that I stole from the Beautiful Stuff blog, I decided to change the focus of this blog.

Here is a small portion of the Literary Friendships discussion between Ayelet Waldman and Michael Chabon in which they talk about why they feel blogging is bad for fiction writers:

I got sucked into the screaming vortex of the blogosphere. It was incredibly fun, but it’s a bad thing for a fiction writer to do … I decided.

Because one of the things that you do as a fiction writer is … you take the experiences of your life and your memories and you kind of wait for them to gel into something and transform into something that you then write about in a very different way. And when you have this new medium of the web, there’s no gel time — it’s just all liquid. It just all comes out right away. And I was taking all these things, these moments and thoughts and experiences, and just putting them right out there. And once they’re out there, once they’re expressed, they’re gone — I think. I think, for a writer, once you’ve put something down, it sort of both freezes it and expresses it, and you lose it from yourself. And it wasn’t just my memories and experiences.

Back in September of 2006, I needed a break from the long, seemingly endless task of the final edit of THE MAGIC QUILT, the historical fantasy novel that I’m writing for young adults. It is my first novel, and I made several mistakes in writing it, one of which was not doing enough historical research until after I’d written the first two drafts. I kept Paul Revere’s first older wife Sara (she was thirty after all) alive after she had already died, perhaps at Revere’s hand — a topic for another entry. So, I thought blogging would give me a break now and then and I could finish my novel. Now, it is May of 2007 and I still haven’t finished THE MAGIC QUILT, but I’ve managed to write a blog entry every couple of weeks about science topics that I found interesting.

So I have made the decision to focus my blog posts on my fiction and historical fantasy writing from now on. I do love science, and I won’t promise science won’t find its way into this blog from time to time, but I’m going to start writing about my fiction work both as a motivational tool for myself and a way to share the experience with others. Check out the new categories to get a feel for the content that will be posted here.

I’d like to end with the words of John Sandford about writing the first novel in his Prey series starring detective Lucas Davenport:

I pretty much wrote it (Rules of Prey) in a trance. Because I had to work if I wanted to feed my family, I was reporting all day and writing the novel all night. I would walk like a ghost through St. Paul’s skyways, failing to recognize friends and familiar politicians, bumping into posts. I’d lose my car in the parking garage. I couldn’t hear people talking to me; I’d go to political event and make notes on the book.

Here’s to memory loss and bumping into posts.