Sunday, July 31, 2011

Overrated Classic or Favorite?

by Jamie Freveletti
The Huffington Post recently posted a list of six classics that the author thought overrated. The link is here. But if you don't want to click it they are:
1. Waiting for Godot, Samuel Beckett
2. Catcher in the Rye, J.D. Salinger
3. Moby Dick, Herman Melville
4. Ulysses, James Joyce
5. The Stranger, Albert Camus

I never read Ulysses-dodged a bullet on that one, and I've only seen Waiting for Godot performed as a play at the Steppenwolf Theater. Well acted, but weird.
Barely recall The Stranger and really recall Moby Dick and Catcher in the Rye. I read Catcher in the Rye when I was a teenager myself and I recall thinking it was okay, but didn't knock me out.
So this list got me to thinking. What were the novels that are the best? Worth every minute? Got you thinking, or sent your imagination flying?
For me:
1. Edgar Allan Poe. Creepy, strange and really twisted.
2. Heinlein, The Red Planet. Loved the whole concept and read it at the appropriate age, so that helped.
3. Stephen King, The Stand. Great exploration of good and evil fighting it out.
4. Goblin Market, Christina Rossetti. Interesting hidden homosexual tones that I kept pressing my college professor to acknowledge. He said, in a bland kind of rolled eye way "yes, Ms. Freveletti, that's been commented on by many over the century," but never really delved into it and seemed to want to move past this revelation. I was fascinated that she had managed to write this poem and it taught me to look for hidden meanings in literature.
5. The Second Coming, WB Yeats. Again, creepy poem that really caught me. (In reading this list I just realized that everything I like is a bit creepy. Guess that's why I write thrillers).

What is your list?

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Young Man’s Death Rattles Indiana Beach Community

by Laura Caldwell

I consider the Sunday New York Times one of life’s greatest pleasures. So I was thrilled when I saw that Long Beach, Indiana, a place of hidden beauty, a place I consider a home, was featured in the Chicagoland section on July 17, 2011. But then I saw what the article was about—the 4th of July tragedy.

Two good guys (that’s the opinion from everyone who’s spoken about them) were on the beach. Some arguments were had. One good kid threw a punch. The other good kid died. I’m over-simplifying here, (to read the piece click here) but that’s the upshot and the agony of the situation.

A few years ago, when I was working on a murder case at 26th and Cal, many were surprised that my client was accused of throwing only two punches. But two punches that contribute to someone’s death is murder in the eyes of the law. As my co-counsel told the jury, “If you’re in for a penny, you’re in for a pound.”

It was in Long Beach, Indiana I wrote most of my book about that trial—Long Way Home: A Young Man Lost in the System and the Two Women Who Found Him. It’s Long Beach that has held me in its dunes and beaches while I wrote most of my twelve books.

The excruciating side of ‘in-for-a-penny’ rule is, as seen in Long Beach, there’s loss all the way around. Clearly, there’s the loss to one family already and now another has their son charged with involuntary manslaughter rolling the dice in the legal system. (My deepest and most sincere sympathies to both families).

So what are we to do with this? Is there anything we can take from such situations? Perhaps it is at least the reminder of the constant fragility of life even in the most idyllic of places. We have to remind ourselves to take the utmost care in day-to-day life—wherever we are—and we have to tell that to our kids, our students, our nieces and nephews. The shame is that this reminder comes in the shadow of such heartbreak for so many.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Death Valley: The Middle of a Novel

by Jamie Freveletti

It's 95 degrees outside and even hotter in my air conditioned house. Why? Because I'm in the middle of one of my manuscripts. Yes, I'm at that lovely space about two thirds of the way that we writers like to call "Death Valley." It's when the plot is formed, the action moving along, and the characters heading toward discovery, BUT, they're not close enough for the last twenty five pages.

I love the last twenty five pages because they're all about momentum. These are the pages that write themselves. For me endings are just a blast to write.

But death valley is the most difficult part. That's because you need to be mindful of the red herrings that you've placed along the way, the plot points that you want to strike and the story arc that you need to hit. I always thought if I was one of those writers that use an outline I would breeze through this section, but I'm told by those writers that do outline that this is not true. They groan when I mention Death Valley, so I assume the pain is equal for them as well.

If you're a new writer beware this section. This is the time that most new authors throw in the towel. Doubts arise, it's difficult and you get a good sense of just how hard it is to write a cohesive story for as many pages as are required. That's why at writing conferences I get a slew of hands when I ask how many are in the middle and stuck.

The best advice I can give for this section is to do just a bit of research. Not a lot, mind you, or you'll just give yourself another reason to procrastinate, but a little. I've found that research will give me some more ideas that will often help me break through to the next level.

In the meantime, I'm just sitting here, sweating it out. I'd go outside for a quick break, but it's as hot out there as in here. I'll just keep on working, ignore the pain and struggle on through.
Back at you when I get to the other side!