Financiers like to compare their negotiations to military strategy. Yet the art of the deal matters far more when those talking also kill. Jonathan Powell’s “Terrorists at the Table” is a primer like few others, by a worldly ex-diplomat of stubborn hope. It’s also darkly funny. Here’s my review.
Review: Modernizing Mexico, one feud at a time
Two Mexicos coexist, one an insular land of hard-to-kill monopolies in politics and business, the other more outward-looking, embracing modernity and even the United States. In “Amarres perros” pundit-politician Jorge Castañeda recalls a life of trying to change the balance. This is my review.
Review: Choking on digital exhaust
Government and corporate mass surveillance of citizens is an aberration on a par with child labor or environmental pollution, argues security expert Bruce Schneier in “Data and Goliath.” He offers a rousing call for resistance, and hope for change – a few decades hence. Read my review.
Review: Monetizing the moment
The Mad Men are watching you. Here’s my column on privacy and online ads in Mike Smith’s “Targeted.”
Review: Fixing the CIA – a novel approach
Could an outsider best reform the CIA in the wake of torture revelations? In David Ignatius’ novel “The Director,” a pro-privacy tech CEO tries to drag an agency that has lost its way into a new world of tighter rules, leaky secrets and cyberthreats. Good idea, uneven results. Read my review.
Review: A user’s guide to slacking at work
Review: “The Peripheral” by William Gibson
More blog-hopping about getting the words down and the story told.
So my writerly friends Mark McNease and D.J. McIntosh took part in the next iteration of the “blog hop” I did last week. Here they are on what they write and how they get the words down on the page: Mark and D.J.
The hop came to me via the good offices of the talented Steve Coulter and also led to this dyspeptic snort from the great Ken Layne. Enjoy!
A blog hop on getting the story told
My friend Steve Coulter, who in addition to drumming in the fab LA band Tsar is turning his talented hand(s) to crime fiction, kindly tagged me to join “The Writing Process Blog Hop.” In addition to me, Steve also tagged the mighty Ken Layne. This is august company, and I’m honoured.
At the end of this post I’ll tag two authors who’ll write next week about how they get their own stories told and words down on the page: Mark McNease and D.J. McIntosh. You can read about them and find links to their work below.
Each of the authors will respond to the same four questions on their writing process below:
1. What am I working on? My current long-running “Project X” is provisionally called “Cordiver’s Catch.” It differs from my previous published work in that there’s no supernatural element, and it may not be primarily a novel at all, but something in a different form, perhaps including theatre. It will be similar though to “The Malice Box” and “The Secret Fire” in its concern with puzzles, time and transformation, and its use of closely researched geographic and historical colour. It may take a while yet, but it’ll please anyone who liked what I’ve done so far, and I hope a lot of new folks too.
2. How does my work differ from others of its genre? In my two published novels I tried to take the conventions of several genres I enjoy and jam them together in a way that I hoped would provide a fresh and different reading experience. So there are elements of Dan Brown’s esoteric thrillers, spy stories, occult horror yarns and classic quest capers in there, plus a bit of self-help and even a walking tour. This succeeded to a degree, though I consider both books to be uneven. It worked against me in that bookstores weren’t quite sure where to put my work (Fantasy? Crime? Horror?) and some readers didn’t care for the shifting effects my gumbo approach produced. On the other hand, readers in their late teens and 20s in many countries seem in particular to have latched on to the world of “The Malice Box”, which was widely translated, and have used social media to tell me so, which is very gratifying.
3. Why do I write what I do? I would go insane if I didn’t write or otherwise do creative work to complement the professional journalism that has been my career for the last 25-odd years.
4. How does my writing process work? When it works – and I’ve had long dry patches when it doesn’t – the actual writing comes very fast, in a semi-dream state, and is best done very early in the morning, when it’s still dark, the house is quiet and the world has not yet stirred. For me it’s critical when in this elusive zone to avoid anything that triggers the task-oriented, world-engaging “left brain” – turning on the TV news, looking at work email or thinking about the upcoming day’s responsibilities and problems will puncture the moment immediately. If early mornings are not available, other forms of isolation have worked well for me: airport hotel rooms on work trips, for example. Anything that’s like a sensory deprivation tank without being, well, a sensory deprivation tank. Before and after the writing stage though there are two other major components: research, which is my own personal form of crack in that, if I could, I would do it for ever, and rewriting, which is the grind that separates the men from the boys, or at least those who finish writing novels from those who start them. Rewriting is the virtuous part of the process in that it sucks but is good for you, and it’s nice when it stops.
Here are the authors for next week:
D.J. McIntosh is the author of two historical thrillers set in contemporary times against the backdrop of the Iraq War. The books focus on antiquity theft and ancient Mesopotamia. Her first novel, “The Witch of Babylon”, published by Penguin Canada and Forge in the U.S., garnered an Amazon best mystery and thriller nomination and has been sold in 20 languages. It was a CNN choice as one of six enduring historical thrillers along with works by Umberto Eco, Wilbur Smith, Kate Mosse, Agatha Christie and Dan Brown. Her second novel, “The Book of Stolen Tales”, has just come out in trade paperback format. She is now working on the third book in the trilogy.
Mark McNease is the author of the Kyle Callahan Mysteries, now with its third book out and a fourth on the way. The books were conceived as a gay mystery series with older (50+) characters who appeal to readers of that age wanting to see their own lives reflected within this genre. He began his writing career in the mid-1980s working for a local Los Angeles paper. Since then he’s had dozens of short stories and articles published, six plays produced (the last at New Jersey Rep), and won an Emmy for Outstanding Children’s Program as writer and co-creator.
Enjoy their work!
Review: Walking cure for cash-strapped U.S. cities
With financial woes hitting American cities big and small, urban revival requires attracting residents who prefer foot power to cars, says city planner Jeff Speck in “Walkable City.” A demographic bulge of millennial workers and empty-nesters want walkability. Build it, and they will come. Here’s my review.