Tuesday, August 20, 2013

The Good Father - Noah Hawley (review)

I wanted SO BADLY to read this book, and picked it up while working at the library. The book is the story of a father's perspective when a child is accused of murder, and worse, the murder of a future president, with all the public scrutiny attached.

It follows a father's quest for answers. Divorcee Dr Paul Allen is a prominent and well-respected specialist in medicine whose world is turned upside down by the news of what his son has done. Only he never really accepts his son's guilt. Initially he's convinced the boy never pulled the trigger, despite all evidence to the contrary. He makes it his mission to amass evidence himself, researching for umpteen hours, poring over reports and paperwork and generally neglecting his family in an insatiable quest to prove his son's innocence. His son, however, refuses to discuss it, and then pleads guilty.

Despite everyone around him begging him to accept his son's guilt, Paul continues as before. His focus changes from denial to a conviction that someone else must have masterminded the plot. He considers spy activity. He tries to blame terrorists. He points the finger at homeless war veterans. He is absolutely deaf and blind to what is staring him in the face; that his son grew up in a broken home and has grown up and done something terrible, and might face the death penalty.

Don't get me wrong, most parents in this situation would expend ferocious amounts of energy as Paul Allen did. The author did a good job at showing the virtual insanity that such a situation might induce. The problem is that I just didn't care. The book was a little too bogged down in minute details that didn't help move the plot along, and a little too short on positive traits that might have made me LIKE the father. Even his interactions with his son are largely absent - if he was openly hostile to his dad, perhaps I'd feel sorry for the doctor. Unfortunately, Paul's only actions were in denying all rational thought and neglecting his family, which made him a character I couldn't pity.

It's very rare that I can't finish a book, and even more rare that I get three-quarters through before abandoning it. But this is one where I had to. I was bored, and, like everyone apart from the father, I'd dealt with the heartbreak of his son's fate back in the first quarter. I'd finally arrived at the point where I didn't care what happened to the father anymore because his irrationality had just dragged on too long. I was even hoping his second wife and family would leave him, so that he'd be forced to take stock of his life (and to break the monotony of "Not his fault! Not his fault! I need to look into more clues and gather more evidence! Not his fault!").

Two stars.

Side note: my copy had multiple instances where a year was incomplete, such as a trial date like "21st January 20__" - the author had apparently intended to go back and fill the year in, but somehow it wasn't picked up by the editors. Multiple times. Maybe it was never copy-edited (which would explain why the father becomes an insufferable person). I am still giving the book two stars rather than one, simply because the author can actually write well. The book just needed plot work.

I did something silly

...and I looked at the bestseller list for adult short stories. Apparently nothing is taboo. This might mean that there's a possible home for some of the shelved short stories that I wrote nine years ago (I recently had them pulled from the website where they originally appeared). I was hesitant to release them because, erm, I suppose I feel like "real" authors don't write about creepy relationships or situations. But I've grown a little in the past nine years, and have come to accept that this was merely my own prejudice and there are people who want to read about those subjects.

I am cleaning them up and choosing which ones deserve to be released.

I still can't bring myself to release "naughty" work under my own name. I could pretend it's about protecting my identity in regards to risqué work, but the truth of the matter is, I'm still not convinced that I'm a good enough writer. Despite the reviews I've had to the contrary. In a way, I suppose I'm waiting for an accidental hit under my pen name to give me the confidence to release as myself.

Time will tell. :)

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

I'm writing, and I'm in my stride.

I think I found a way to un-shelve that book. I know, right? Call the papers.

The one that didn't have a >>reason<< and didn't have a plan or a direction. I think I found one. It still doesn't have a climax, but I think it'll be much easier. Life doesn't come with an instruction manual, either, and we still consider it worth doing. You know what that means... it means I'll need to put it back on the sidebar as a work-in-progress.

I also got my second erotic short out this week, and in a few days' time I will do the final edit on the third and prep it for release. Phew. I've been more organised than, like, ever. Something must be wrong! ;)

It feels nice to have some purpose. To be busy.

Monday, August 5, 2013

On "Failure" (and Procrastination)

I think I'm the master procrastinator. If you think I'm joking, then my book list should allay any doubts.

I am also the master of not-finishing-anything. But it has occurred to me of late that not every unfinished book is a failure.

Take Work Two (Ana). I spent a great deal of time developing that story, the downtrodden girl destined for greatness. It is immensely clichéd in theory, but the way she was to get to the destination I had hoped was unique. I am certainly yet to hear of another book that describes a character with the same attitudes and values as hers.

And yet, despite the weeks of effort I put into that, it was going nowhere. The storytelling just wasn't engaging with the reader. It was painful, but I eventually shelved it, knowing that until the twist or new character spoke to me, it was pointless continuing with drivel. Shelving hurts - at the time I always assume it will be forever, so even if the shelving turns out to be temporary, it can sometimes make me feel a little sad.

Even so, all was not lost. It was writing Work Four's outline that I realised the idea was familiar, and so Work Two's premise could be used. (I know I've mentioned this before but stay with me.)

The point is... time spent writing is never wasted. Shelving a book is not the end. Accepting a work's limitations is not failure. It is a learning process, and we are growing as writers. It could be said that the secret to good writing is in what gets thrown out.

In my procrastination for today, I stumbled on a blog I'm loving. Oh, I hate what the blogger has to say and I hate her genre. What can I say, I'm opinionated. But it stirred me into writing today, and into updating this blog. Twice. You only see one new post, but that's because I posted something else and queued it for later.

Even annoyance can be a tool. Including being annoyed at your own work. See?

(Ever the procrastinator, I don't think I'll post this... just yet.)

Friday, August 2, 2013


I have had a stressful couple of days in MeatSpace™ (otherwise known as "the real world") and it has impacted on my ability to focus. Or I should say, my willingness to just sit down and write. I haven't written much lately anyway, and it is causing ants in the pants - I am seeking out distractions, getting bogged down in time-waster websites and doing pretty much anything rather than open my word-processor.

So far I've only gotten one chapter done today, and it was a chapter I didn't want to write, although it is surprisingly acceptable work.

And then, boom, I'M OUTTA THERE, can't bear to look for which chapter I should do next.

The distraction thing (read: playing instead of working) has been an issue for a long time. There is a shiny new android netbook on its way to me, by definition not as exciting as the desktop with the mouse and more distractions, and I want to dedicate time daily to writing, by picking up the netbook and physically removing myself from this desk. Fingers crossed.