Tag Archives: authors

WRITEAHOUSE.ORG

Both sides of my family migrated to Detroit in the first half of the 20th Century.  Both of my parents were born there.  It is the place where our history, our culture, our collective memory, the proof of our existence to the physical world emanates from.  Some have left, many have died.  Others have remained to witness the horror, the transformation of a great community.

There are newcomers, such as Liana, who’s home is here because of Write A House. Here is her blog about her experience in Detroit.

 

I now do most of my writing from an upstairs room that overlooks most of my street. The room is stark, with freshly painted white walls (Thanks Write A House crew), a wooden desk and an aluminum folding chair. I’ve kept it bare to minimize distraction and maximize output. I am easily distracted. I lose focus. I am not one of those writers who can write comfortably anywhere, at any time. To get a place of pure, magical focus and creativity, I have to expend so much energy. But even a minimally decorated, quiet room has not stopped my mind from wandering elsewhere.

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Source: WRITEAHOUSE.ORG

10 Rules for Writing from Jesus, the author and finisher of my faith.

‘looking to Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith…’ Hebrews 12:2

Here are some tips that you can choose to apply to your writing. Decide for yourself.

Write so that your product will provide consumers with joy. 
Galatians 5:22-23 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, 23 gentleness, self-control. Against such things there is no law.

Write what is in your heart. Don’t write what you think people will like or to please other people. Follow your heart when you write and be true to who you are and what you want to say. 
Luke 6:45 A good man produces good out of the good storeroom of his heart. An evil man produces evil out of the evil storeroom, for his mouth speaks from the overflow of the heart.

Believe in your vision for what you want to write. 
The Apostle John was directed in writing the book of Revelation to “Therefore write what you have seen, what is, and what will take place after this.” Revelation 1:19

Learn the art of writing. Practice the discipline of writing. 
Proverbs 23:12 Apply yourself to discipline and listen to words of knowledge.

To communicate a message understand what you are saying. Be sincere, have a clear conscience, and seek to find the purist form in your words. Avoid abstract, vague, confusing language. The Apostle Paul uses this advice when sharing with Timothy how he should stay true to the message they are supposed to be teaching. 
1 Timothy 1:5-7 Now the goal of our instruction is love that comes from a pure heart, a good conscience, and a sincere faith. 6 Some have deviated from these and turned aside to fruitless discussion. 7 They want to be teachers of the law, although they don’t understand what they are saying or what they are insisting on.

Think of your writing as a sacrificial gift to others, and expect to be paid what it is worth. 
Acts 20:35 includes part of the Apostle Paul’s direction to the church elders in Ephesus. In it he states “In every way I’ve shown you that by laboring like this, it is necessary to help the weak and to keep in mind the words of the Lord Jesus, for He said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ ”. 
Likewise when Paul wrote to the churches in Galatia he advised them similarly “For each person will have to carry his own load. 6 The one who is taught the message must share all his good things with the teacher. 7 Don’t be deceived: God is not mocked. For whatever a man sows he will also reap,” Galatians 6:5-7a.

Apply careful investigation to what you write.
The Gospel attributed to Luke begins with this explanation: “Many have undertaken to compile a narrative about the events that have been fulfilled among us, 2 just as the original eyewitnesses and servants of the word handed them down to us. 3 It also seemed good to me, since I have carefully investigated everything from the very first, to write to you in an orderly sequence, most honorable Theophilus, 4 so that you may know the certainty of the things about which you have been instructed.” Luke 1:1-4

Have a clear and specific purpose for everything you write.
Joshua 18:4 Provide for yourselves three men from each tribe that I may send them, and that they may arise and walk through the land and write a description of it according to their inheritance; then they shall return to me.

Write when you find yourself most challenged. Write when it seems like it’s the last thing you should do. When in doubt, write. No matter what excuse you have not to write, write anyway.
Here in John 8:6 is an example of what Jesus did: “They were saying this, testing Him, so that they might have grounds for accusing Him. But Jesus stooped down and with His finger wrote on the ground.”

Write for a higher standard. 1 Corinthians 4:3-5 “It is of little importance to me that I should be evaluated by you or by any human court. In fact, I don’t even evaluate myself. 4 For I am not conscious of anything against myself, but I am not justified by this. The One who evaluates me is the Lord.”

REVIEW: FOREIGN AGENT

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Foreign Agent: A Thriller (Scot Harvath) by Brad Thor

What I liked:

The best of the genre is exemplified by a driving force of will.  There you experience a relentless pace of action, conflict, and contest.  The NBA Championship finals just concluded.  LeBron James led the Cleveland Cavaliers over a potentially historic Golden State Warriors team in a Game 7 nail biter that wasn’t settled until a series of dramatic plays in the final moments.  What we sports fans relish about this only pure form of reality television is the back and forth cage match that brings out both the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat.  Not much else compares.  What Foreign Agent does so well is reproduce like emotions in scripted form.  Kudos.

The adrenaline rush that runs constant throughout the story is a rare treat.  This is a modern war story.  Violent political conflict across the globe is a threat to American safety as the Untied States’ superpower influence becomes a pawn in the chess match that is power politics on steroids.  As is true about most great chess games, this one involves Russians.  Scot Harvath, as a deep cover operative, is the point man for the home team.  A tribute to the superlative quality of this book is in part owed to Harvath’s character.  He isn’t just cunning and highly competent.  He also demonstrates an intellect generally presumed to be possessed by more refined, less violent members of the male species.  So yes, readers get to have their beefcake and eat it too.

In a review of the preceding book in the series (see Code of Conduct), I criticized it’s lack of balance.  Where was the romance in Harvath’s life?  Is he little more than Batman redux?  Well shut my mouth, because Harvath has come home.  The dilemmas he faces, though serious, credible, and not simple to resolve, are none the less dealt with in satisfactory fashion.

What I didn’t like:

Did you ever witness one of the nagging complaints about professional boxing?  How champion fighters too often scheduled miss matches with less than capable opponents in order to pad their paychecks while protecting their posteriors.  I’m talking about patsies.  Well Russia appears to be playing patsy here.  Is Thor paying homage to the dozens of Russian heavy weights over the years who took the dive for the George Foremans, the Joe Fraziers, and the late Muhammad Ali?  As the story proceeds, Russia seems incapable of state of the art technical espionage or classic trade craft, that is until the plot calls for it.  But hey I’m being too picky.  You can’t have it both ways.  Or can you?

What you should know:

The rules of engagement include torture.  Enhanced interrogation techniques are used.  The warning sign reads:  Squeamish individuals will enter at their own risk.  I find that there are distinct messages in Thor prose.  One such message here is that the use of extreme measures are a necessary aspect of winning fights where the alternatives are not palatable.  Brad Thor may or may not be right.  What he does is force readers to consider the issues.  That is one quality I respect in an author.

Recommendation:

A real Good Read

Review: Code of Conduct

Code of conductCode of Conduct: A Thriller (Scot Harvath Book 14) by Brad Thor.  This is a NY Times best seller in the Paperback Mass-Market Fiction Category.  Brad Thor is a well known bestselling author of the Scot Harvath Thriller series.  His next book, entitled Foreign Agent, debuts June 14th.

What I liked.

The thriller genre is not as attractive to me as others I prefer to read more often.  So I tend to be more demanding.  I’ll often judge this type based on whether I feel compelled to skip ahead while reading (a bad sign).  However, some would argue that the death knell for similar stories is when you put the book down and awhile later discover you haven’t picked it back up.  Phrases like ‘page turner’ are key to separating the wheat from the chaff in this regard.  Needless to say, Thor definitely does pass muster with this book.  What need I say?  There is a broad, ambitious story, involving the fate of mankind.  Thor has mastered the art of maintaining tension and interest as characters navigate through conflicts that challenge their morality, their determination, and their intelligence.

Because of an epic scale that spans the globe, multiple groups of characters are introduced and reintroduced.  Thor weaves these stories at a pace that allows you to keep track of who’s who, without bogging down the action. And there is plenty of action.  As is typical of the genre, the violence ramps up towards the final climactic ending, and you will be ready when the time comes.

One perceived weakness of the genre is the balance of substance.  Here we’re found wanting if it appears to be ‘all action, no talk’.  Thor adds meat to the prose by interspersing political philosophy: it isn’t just good verses evil, but government bureaucracy verses individual liberty.  So the conflict between ideas is just as entertaining as the cage fight spectacle.

What I didn’t like.

A story of this scope and style often treads lightly on character development.  While there is enough there to like the good guys, and dislike the bad guys, I was still left wanting.  Scot Harvath is a very well developed protagonist and you’re left with no doubt about his reasons why or raison d’etre, s’il vous plait.  Not so much for the people around him.  They are more or less two dimensional.  For example the two prominent female characters are stereotypical archetypes.  But that probably won’t bother the target demographic.

I had a similar issue with the villain.  He had to be the nicest serial killer you ever met.  What’s up with that!  He leads a great life until he suffers a bad loss.  Then he reads a bad book?  So he goes crazy?  Thor has quite the cautionary tale about being careful with your bedside reading choices!

What you should know.

For thriller and suspense lovers, this is definitely the ticket.  With respect to the amount of violence, think early Schwarzenegger, if you want a movie comparison.  Warning:  know that these series can be highly addictive.  You may find yourself up late at night and suddenly sleep deprived (and neglecting significant others a la Harvath).  Take your time.  There are plenty more where this came from if you haven’t read any of his novels before.  If you have, don’t worry, you can buy a copy of Foreign Agent and get your fix this summer.

Recommendation:  Must Read

 

Review:  Getaway

Getaway by Lisa a Brackmann.  This is the first novel of her new series. The next book, Go-Between comes out in July.

What I liked.

This is what Frantic should have been and possibly could have been with better writing.  There is serious realistic peril for a vacationer in Mexico.  My emphasis is on the word realistic.  I was willing to go down this rabbit hole only because it was so believable.  Having vacationed in Cabo San Lucas, Puerto Vallarta and visited numerous places in Mexico, I’m familiar with the territory.  It was enjoyable to see Vallarta from a literary point of view.  This trip was both fun and affordable!

The story. I have read and recommend all of the Ellie McEnroe novels which take place in China.  Getaway comes across as a completely different story.  The tone and pacing are so disparate I wouldn’t know it was the same author if her name wasn’t written on the cover.  I found the story enthralling.  I liken it to the classic idea of the American travelling abroad, unaware of the risks associated with living without the protections of the Bill of Rights and faith in the criminal justice system.  It isn’t an original concept. Yet in the hands of Brackmann the payoff is in how she unveils each episode.  The tension builds and with each passing hour fears are stoked, until the climactic conclusion.

What I didn’t like.

There are no tidy resolutions.  Kinda like real life.  It is messy. Perhaps readers won’t mind that though.  Add to it the chance the next book will tie up all those loose ends.  Something I look forward to.

What you should know.

If you like violent novels this is for you.  Smart, serious, suspense.

Recommendation: Must Read

 

Review: Blood Defense

Blood Defense by Marcia Clark.

This is the author’s first novel of a series involving a criminal defense attorney named Samantha Brinkman.  You can read her Rachel Knight prosecutor series here.

What I liked:

The protagonist.  Samantha’s not so law abiding approach to the world was so refreshing. I also appreciated her professional approach to her vocation, it wasn’t about money, it was about doing the right thing the right way.  This is also a no nonsense, courageous protagonist.  That is the way I prefer them to be when I see them as the ‘hero’.  The interesting aspect of Samantha is that her personal life is non-existent.  Under the circumstances her work absorbs all of her life.  The intriguing part is that this missing piece does not detract from the story.  I imagine later tomes will add that dimension.  She is unmarried, and as such the only personal interaction she has is with her parents, and those are priceless.

The plot twist.  I found the twist to be unique and compelling – no spoiler though, find out for yourself, it is worth it.  I will say this, the description of the emotional impact of the revelation pulls the reader into the story and holds you.  That’s a major reason why we read novels, and this one delivers.  Could you imagine yourself in that situation?  What would you think?  How would you react under the circumstances?

The mystery.  This, of course like many of the genre, is a who done it.  There is a very delicate balance every mystery author must maintain in order for the mystery to both drive the story and keep up a plausible enough level of suspense to engage readers. And this works only to the degree that there is an investment of interest made validating the notion that anyone cares what happens.  This is not an easy task.  It is in my opinion the element that separates the real mystery authors from the pretenders.  Clark demonstrates her chops in this regard.

What I didn’t like:

I am one of those nitpickers.  I confess!  So I’ll ask.  How does a violent crime victim who has never gotten justice become a criminal defense attorney?  Why?  So she can sandbag all her cases and get her clients convicted?  I think not.  I just cannot reconcile the contradiction.  There is more to be mined on this subject but that the author only skims the surface.  I say ‘no go’.  Why touch so lightly on something so worthy of proper focus?  Samantha has nightmares.  Well?  I don’t think it can be mentioned, as often as it is, without going into detail about the cause and effect.

What you should know:

Amateur psychologists will revel in this smorgasbord of mental disorders – narcissism, sociopaths, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, while seeing them play out in the lives of the people who are forced to live with them.  The scene is Los Angeles, and pop culture is a main character.  Kudos to making reference to the current political upheaval involving the presidential election.

Recommendation:  Must Read

 

Review: Dragon Day

Dragon Day by Lisa Brackmann.

This is the author’s third novel with heroine Ellie McEnroe and although it is my least favorite, I still regard it as good read.

What I liked:

The setting.  For those of us who travel less, it is a treat to see exotic places like China through the eyes of a gifted storyteller.  This setting is very much a prominent character, making the experience even more enjoyable.

The family.  How people relate to family in a novel can often be as important as the plot.  It provides readers with a safe place to address their own familial challenges without the requisite emotional baggage.  It doesn’t just make characters more real and relatable.  Because when a reader engages with a character vicariously, another level of interaction arises, leaving a lingering impact in the mind, one that germinates upon further reflection, such that ideas fully form and take hold, allowing for the possibility of personal growth.  Brackmann’s fictional family is an entertaining gift for readers to treat with surrogate care.

The departure.   This adventure introduces an entirely new set of players into Ellie’s world.  While some favorites return, others fade into the background.  It is a fresh, if not completely independent sequel to the previous two tales.  Getting to know the new faces raises the mystery quotient I’m happy to say.

What I didn’t like:

Ellie has a slight personality change.  She remains the damaged PTSD combat casualty, struggling to find herself and her place in the world.  However this version is so fraught with uncertainty about whom she should trust and what the consequences of her choices might be, her paralysis of analysis becomes off putting.  She still doesn’t heed the advice of those who care for her as always.  Which makes me wonder, why all the kvetching if she’s going to do things her way in the end?

What you should know:

This is adults only fare in my opinion. The threat of violence permeates throughout.  There are mature themes, however the language is moderately colorful.

Recommendation: Good Read

Write A House in detroit

The quoted description below was taken from writeahouse.com

DONATE HERE
Our mission is simple: to leverage Detroit’s available housing in creative ways to bolster an emerging literary community to benefit the City of Detroit and its neighborhoods. We enliven the literary arts of Detroit by renovating homes and giving them to authors, journalists, poets, aka writers. It’s like a writer-in-residence program, only in this case we’re actually giving the writer the residence, forever.
Project Mission

Write-A-House (WAH) is a Detroit based organization that seeks to teach and support trade crafts and literary creativity. Our key tactic involves leveraging the easy availability of distressed housing in order to promote vocational education, home ownership, neighborhood stabilization, and creative arts. In short, WAH will work to support a more vibrant literary arts community that lives at a grassroots level and helps Detroit’s neighborhoods.

Project Goal

WAH seeks to (1) educate the under-employed on carpentry and building skills (2) use those skills to renovate Detroit city homes and (3) award those homes to writers. Like any literary community, writers will be awarded based on their writing and their desire to be here. WAH seeks to support low-income writers by awarding at least three homes each year. We will also publish a journal of arts and creative non-fiction to document the process, work to determine a sustainable and green approach to home renovation, and connect writers to support a more vibrant literary community in Detroit. Our long, long term goal involves building a literary colony in Detroit, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.