Monday, July 21, 2014

That Infamous Hook

Another oldie but goodie revisited...

As a writer, I am forever reading and not just for pleasure. Lately, thanks to my critique partner who happens to be an editor, I've been reminded of the infamous hook and the need for a novel to have one during the first 100 words. So I spent most of yesterday reworking the first page of my current work-in-progress, all in an attempt to add a really good "hook."

Then this morning during one of my breaks - yes, writing magazines make great "break" reading - I was again learning all about hooks and how in the current market, a good hook is even more essential.

"So what is a hook?" Besides being the quintessential villain in the movie of the same name, apparently a good hook is everything in making your story a success. In today's market, with it's over abundance of books all vying for the public's attention, a hook is that very sentence or catch phrase that makes your reader ask, "What happens next?"

Perhaps it's best explained this way. As a reader, it's that phrase that first sparks a flame inside you. It's those words that make you think, I really want to read this story, and without those words, that phrase, you close the book or discard the ebook sample simply because it didn't capture your attention.

Finding that perfect hook is very frustrating for an author. This is the eighth time I've rewritten my first page in hopes of pleasing the reader inside me. If I'm not impressed, my potential readers won't be either.

...and so my own search for that magical, infamous hook continues.

Good luck to us both as we continue our search through seemingly endless revisions in search of that elusive hook. Or as Robin Williams' version of Peter Pan would say, "It's Hook or me this time."

Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, July 15, 2014


Another great mystery from Clea Simon. This third book in Clea's Pru Marlowe Pet Noir series is her best one yet! 

When I first started reading this novel, I already had a pile of books on my nightstand to read. So I thought I'd take a quick peak at page one and get an idea of what I had to look forward to. 

Big mistake! From page one I was hooked. Pru Marlowe is one of those girls you feel like you've known since high school, a beer-drinking, bad girl with a smart mouth and a lot of chutzpah. But in this story she's met her match in Randolph the equally smart-mouth parrot.

Check out Clea's description of PARROTS PROVE DEADLY on her website, :

"Parrots will repeat anything – they don’t talk sense. Or do they? When Pru Marlowe is called in to retrain a foul-mouthed African gray after its owner’s death, the bad-girl animal psychic can’t help hearing the bird’s words as a replay of a murder scene. But the doctor on call scoffs at the idea, and the heirs just want their late mother’s pet to quit cursing. 

"With the only other possible witnesses being an evasive aide, the blind neighbor, and a single-minded service dog, Pru is stuck with what may be a feather-brained theory. Even her crotchety tabby Wallis doesn’t buy it, although she’s more than willing to “interrogate” the big bird, as Pru deals with drugs, jealousy, and a potential rabies outbreak in Parrots Prove Deadly, the third Pru Marlowe pet noir."

Sunday, July 13, 2014

THE EXORCIST by William Peter Blatty

A book review I wrote a couple years ago.... 

If you are a fan of horror fiction or just a lover of good books from the dark side (aren't they the same thing? :-)) I strongly recommend reading THE EXORCIST by William Peter Blatty. In my opinion, like all good books, this one far exceeds the movie.

In the book, you get to know Chris MacNeil, the adoring single mother/actress. My heart went out to Chris as she helplessly watched her loving, intelligent daughter become a sullen, angry monster spending all her time in the confines of the basement lashing out verbally when provoked. (Sounds like your typical teenager?)

Chris knew there was something seriously wrong with her daughter, but the medical community provided more questions than answers.

You also meet Regan (Rags), Chris' pre-pubescent twelve year old, full of love and innocence whose curiosity gets the better of her. Then, there is Father Damien Karras. A troubled Catholic Priest crippled by self-doubt and overwhelmed with guilt upon the death of his mother. There are other characters like the Columboesque Police Detective Kinderman, Chris MacNeil's free-spirited assistant, Sharon, and the staunch Swiss house staff of Willie and Karl Engstrom.

At first memories of the movie overshadowed my enjoyment of the book. Quite frankly the scratching over Regan's ceiling made me hesitate and question how badly I wanted to complete this ON WRITING HORROR assignment. Then, as I discovered characters not fully revealed in the movie, my fearful soul calmed down and I began to understand the whys and hows of the story behind THE EXORCIST. A story of self-doubt and unexplained circumstances that most of us can relate to, if we allow ourselves.

Coming to Terms With My Own Fear

I wrote this entry a couple years ago and I'm very happy to say that so far I've survived the more scary aspects of my own writing....

I started reading THE EXORCIST by William Peter Blatty yesterday. I'm only about ten pages in and already facing that mortal fear that sometimes binds me. What is it about this book that impacts me, the reader, so paralytically?

So far I've enjoyed my research into the world of horror. I've read some of the most frightening novels I never imagined, 'SALEM'S LOT and PET SEMETARY by Stephen King to name two. Yes, they frightened me at the time and my day-mares and nightmares were duly impacted, but never have I had such an overwhelming sense of dread as I do with this novel. Maybe it's the whole persona of THE EXORCIST, the novel made into a movie that scared millions. Is it the hype that  freaks me out?

After reading about the knocking on Regan's ceiling yesterday, I went for a walk. I had to clear my head and gather my thoughts. Bottom line, I had to come to terms with my own fears. How else was I to continue delving into this outer realm of monsters, ghosts and things that frighten the most stoic of us? How was I going to be a horror writer if my own stories keep my heart on edge?

In turning to ON WRITING HORROR this morning, I found a chapter on addressing fear, especially fear of one's own writing. The fear that sneaks up from behind as the imagination creates an exquisitely terrifying scene. Inside we know our readers will love it...if we can survive the writing.

In his chapter, The Fear of Going There by Michael Marano, he discusses the fear we all have to some degree as our imaginations take over and our terrifying  antagonists hijack our story. As Mr. Marano states, "Freaking yourself out is an occupational hazard for a horror writer."

After reading this insightful chapter, the main underlying message I received was this, use my fear. Facing and embracing my fear is my opportunity to grow not just as a writer but also as a person. ....Hopefully I can remember this as I work on my own two horror stories this afternoon with dashes of THE EXORCIST here and there. I'll let you know. :-)

Poetry - Comfort Food

She crept along the corridor
Taking care to keep footsteps quiet
Her breathing soft
Her ears keen, listening for voices,
They said they were going out for the afternoon
But not to her
She was invisible to them
A nonexistent entity
Her sole purpose to do their bidding
And disappear,
No one was home, except for her
All was silent but the kitchen clock
She was alone, finally,
She loved these times
By herself, no one watching
She could sneak into the empty rooms
Restricted to her,
Cupboards open, she was hungry
For love and affection but a stolen cookie or two
Would have to do,
To ease the pain and fill the hole
A car door slams, bare feet scurry
Up the stairs to her room, hoping
Her presence in the forbidden canister 

Would go unnoticed.

To All of You Who Are Motherly!

Happy Mother's Day to all of you who are motherly! Mother's Day has always been an enigma to me and every year I am puzzled as to...