New Releases List

Monday, April 30, 2012

A Curious Reluctance to Finish

I finished my first draft of book #5 of The Righteous series, Destroying Angel, several weeks ago, and have been puttering around with rewrites ever since. I feel like a runner at the end of the marathon who has decided to slow down and walk the last half mile, not because the tank has run dry, but because he has been training and running for so long that he doesn't want it all to be over. It's the last book of the series (with a possible extension on the table), and I've lived in this world and with these characters for so long that I'm reluctant to say goodbye. Or at least that's my excuse. The other answers are less satisfactory. There's no hard deadline to face--I'm ahead of the terms of my contract with Thomas & Mercer--and there's a certain reluctance to finish this book and move on to my next, which is the WWII thriller. I'm both excited by and terrified of that project. More stretching of the writer muscles, and I don't to pull anything. And then there's the excuse of my recent vacation, followed by a week of house sitting for a friend, with the distractions of spring all around. Or maybe I'm just procrastinating. The answer to that is always more butt in chair, fingers on keyboard.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Discovered a Great New Book

I don't usually mention other people's books on this blog, as I feel funny enough about pimping my own books, and I don't want this to be a forum for selling, selling, selling! However, I read a funny, engaging fantasy novel that was recently released for the Kindle that I wanted to share. It is The Wrong Sword, by Ted Mendelssohn, and it's a great combination of laugh-aloud humor, page-turning plot, and great historical detail. I highly recommend it. As I was reading it, my wife grew annoyed not just with my frequent laughter, but with my desire to read passages to her because she quickly decided she wanted to read it too. Pick it up, I think you'll like it.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Some thoughts from Amsterdam

We arrived in Amsterdam yesterday after a week in Florence. It was cold and breezy, but not raining. We're staying in Haarlem, which is a charming town of brick plazas and canals lined with brick houses. After dropping our luggage at the B&B, we returned via train (about twenty minutes) to Amsterdam, where we spent the rest of day.

In Amsterdam, we took a canal cruise lasting about an hour, walked through the central part of the city, taking not of the "coffee houses" (marijuana pubs), and the red light district, which was appropriately sleezy, but somewhat underwhelming after all the hype. A short hop on the light rail brought us to the museum of Dutch resistance in World War II. It seems the Dutch didn't, actually resist much until near the end of the war. At the start of the war, they surrendered to the Germans after only a few days of fighting. Almost all Dutch Jews were exterminated (unlike the Danish Jews), and unlike the French, who rose up when the Allies invaded, northern Holland remained under Nazi control until the very end of the war, even as Germany itself was being invaded. And then, with no sense of irony, the Netherlands tried to reassert its colonial control over its empire in Indonesia. They only allowed Indonesian independence under serious pressure from the United States.

Having said that, there were heroic exceptions of Dutch who took illicit photos, hid Jews, and organized strikes against the German occupiers. Their actions might have been more effective without so many of their compatriots simply doing what they were told. In fact, being so alone undoubtedly meant much greater danger for those who did resist.

We returned to Haarlem after the museum, where we finished checking in and then ate Indonesian food before getting an earlier bedtime than when we were with our friends in Florence.

A few random thoughts/observations about our experiences.

* They aren't kidding about Dutch bikes. They're everywhere, and forget bike lanes--there are entirely separate roads for bikes. We saw a parking garage for bikes in Amsterdam that held thousands upon thousands of bicycles.

* There was an old man on the train with a face that looked like something Rembrandt would have painted. He had one remaining incisor on his upper jaw that perfectly matched hole left by a single missing tooth on the lower jaw.

* At the Indonesian restaurant they brought us a large plate of rice, and eight hot dishes, six cold dishes, and four bowls with various condiments. The individual portions were tiny, but the sum total made for another gut-busting meal. Who said American restaurants were the only ones with oversized portions.

* I'm struck yet again about how the car culture and poorly-considered zoning leaves American cities so much less attractive and less walkable than many places in Europe.

* We had breakfast yesterday in Amsterdam that had several delicious kinds of bread, together with raspberry and fig jam and clotted cream. The meals in Holland are more expensive relative to lodging than they were in Italy.

* I've traveled a good deal and eaten at all sorts of restaurants, but I'd never had Indonesian before, to my memory. If you toss in the cuttlefish ravioli and the horse that I tried in Florence, this has been a rather adventurous food trip. I've also tried grappa, pan forte, and licorice gelato for the first time.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

In Search of a Good Villain

I've been giving some thought this past week to what makes a good villain. I've dealt with all types in past books, from the insane, to the power hungry, to people who are twisted by their circumstances into something monstrous. On occasion I've crafted a villain to meet the circumstances of the plot. This is what I did with The Devil's Peak, fitting the perfect villain to torment my main character. In The Righteous, religion motivates both my protagonists and my villains in equal measures. For The Red Rooster, the villain is a Gestapo agent, working to forward the evil of the Third Reich.

As I'm plotting out my newest book--another WWII thriller--it would be easy to come up with the same sort of character. Nazi is shorthand for evil; if my sympathetic characters are opposed to Nazis, there's no further need to justify their actions. And yet this strikes me as a little too easy for this particular book.

I absolutely do not want to justify the horrific behavior of the Nazi regime, but if I simply adopt the usual tropes, it's unlikely that I'll produce anything interesting or memorable. And it occurs to me that a reluctant Nazi might be, if anything, more horrific than the usual sociopath pulled directly from central casting.

As this character starts to come together in my head, my attention turns toward his opponents, and the need to give them an equally compelling narrative.