Tag Archives: #TonyMcManus

…Great Guest Blog Post about Quality Writing from Author, Tony McManus…

…my great pal, Author, Tony McManus, delivers another outstanding contribution with this blog on Quality Writing and the not-so-brilliant stuff… enjoy…

GOOD WRITING

BAD WRITING

AND MARKET FORCES

What is it that drives some novels to the top of the commercial sales charts while other books wallow in poor sales rankings? What makes a blockbuster? Good writing? Maybe not.

A short while back I published a blog, Bringing the Curtain Down, in which I speculated on when and why the author of a thriller series should call it a day and wrap it up. In the article, I mentioned that the writer, Lee Child, was about to publish his 22nd Jack Reacher novel, Midnight Line.Well that’s now history and #23, Past Tense,will be available in November 2018; great news for Lee Child, his publisher and for Jack Reacher fans the world over.

After I’d written the piece it occurred to me that I’d never read a Jack Reacher novel. And, as Lee Child is an apex novelist and his Jack Reacher Series a world block-busting top seller, I decided it was time to correct that anomaly and find out what all the fuss was about. I’d join the crowd and read me some Jack Reacher.

I headed into downtown Chiang Mai, to The Lost Book Shop, my favorite bookstore, and picked up five Jack Reacher paperbacks: Killing Floor, The Hard Way, One Shot, Bad Luck And Trouble and Make Me. Second hand, they were cheap but in good condition. Back home, I got into them.

I began with Killing Floor, the first in the series. And I have to say I enjoyed it and can see why it was a hit. Written in the 1st person, the story-line was sound, tense and exciting. But, like many of today’s novels, I found it inflated and overweight. My edition weighed in at 525 pages. I believe that good comprehensive editing would have cut it down to 350 or even less and delivered a tighter, more dynamic book.

Next up was The Hard Way followed by Bad Luck And Trouble. Both were disappointing. Written in the 3rd person, I found the narrative poor, staccato, heavily padded and packed with redundant sentences, many sentences lacking verbs and way too much description of people and places. And for me the abundance of one-word sentences and even one-word paragraphs is painful. I then read Make Meand had started reading Kill Shotwhen I picked up a copy of Personalwhich, like Killing Floor, is written in the 1st person. I enjoyed it. I never went back to Kill Shot.

Giving it thought, it’s as if the series is written by two different writers, and in a way it’s true. In the 3rd person novels, Lee Child tells the tale. In the 1st person stories, there are six, Child hands the pen to Jack Reacher. And Reacher delivers the better book.

Writing in the first person allows a writer a free hand, a chance to break loose from many grammar and syntax constraints and speak just as he feels through the medium of his narrator as Mark Twain did with Huckleberry Finn.The language can be crude or elegant. The narrator may be a gentle Dr. Jekyll or a brutal serial killing Mr. Hyde. The character of the protagonist is revealed through the narrative tone and the language. And, naturally, Jack Reacher, the loner, the rugged individualistic drifter, couldn’t care less about the niceties of English grammar and good prose as he tells his tale. Right?

This freedom, I feel, is one reason many writers choose to write in the 1st person. The 3rd person narrative is a far different and more difficult arena governed by law and order and rules to which the omniscient narrator should adhere. Some writers can switch and write well in both. Child isn’t one of them. Lee Child is a free-wheeling writer who has rejected the discipline of grammatical rules and guidelines. I believe he should have stayed in the 1st person for the entire series. And that way he could have blamed Jack Reacher for any anomalies.

The old advice “show, don’t tell” is sound advice in my view. “Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.”(Chekhov). It was at the core of Hemingway’s ‘iceberg theory of omission.’ I believe it also reveals a writer’s respect for his reader. Of course, a good writer utilizes both; he shows and also tells. Lee Child prefers to tell not show. And it shows.

The lack of editing in Lee Child’s novels is chronic. One comes across many unedited self-published books on Amazon, where lots of publications are not even self-edited. But Lee Child’s novels come from a publishing house. So why didn’t his publishers set their editors to work and rein him in? It could be that now he’s so established, they leave him be. I sense that the editors only check for minor things such as typos and spelling errors, with more serious violations off limits. Child once commented that his editors are, “. . .afraid to piss me off.”Really?

Lee Child seems to be a great guy. He’s had setbacks in life and overcame them. I admire that, and his consequent success has to be applauded. I feel sure I’d enjoy a good chat and a few beers with him. In interviews, he’s open and honest. He’s said he’s not out to seek prizes; his aim is to deliver entertainment. And his books sell like freshly baked bread in a famine. But how come? What gives?

A long time ago, ‘back in the day’, I had a sweet Toronto girlfriend. Clare was well read. She loved good books, and her bookshelf revealed a catholic taste in its mix of classics and contemporary writers. She’d read George Eliot’s Middlemarchin college and wrote an essay on it. She admired a host of fine writers. But she loved Harold Robbins.

Robbins was, and remains, one of the best-selling writers of all time, he penned over 25 best-sellers, selling over 750 million copies worldwide in 32 languages.

Under pressure from Clare and to please her, I got into him starting with The Carpetbaggers. I moved on to A Stone for Danny Fisher and on and on. I didn’t read the whole Robbins corpus but more than a few. And yes I enjoyed them though I didn’t rate him too highly as a writer. Like Lee Child, Robbins wrote as he liked. It seemed he’d never heard of the ‘point of view’ rule, so quite often you didn’t know which character was thinking what.

One day, Clare was lying back on her couch flipping the pages of Robbins’ latest, The Adventurers. I teased her. I told her I thought Robbins wasn’t much of writer; a crappy one, really. I expanded on that and she agreed. “You’re right, Tony,” she said, laughing.

“You agree?” I said, surprised.

“Yes,” she nodded. “I agree.”

“Yet you read him?”

“Yes,” She smiled. “It’s crazy I know. I can’t explain it, but I just can’t put him down.”

Rick Gekowski is a writer, broadcaster, rare book dealer and former Senior Lecturer in English at Warwick University. In 2011 he held the Chair of Judges for the 2011 Man Booker International Prize for Fiction. The Guardian newspaper once stated that“Gekowski likes to be around a better class of book than the rest of us.”Impressive, right?

Yet, in an article published in The Guardian, Gekowski came out of the closet and confessed to being a Jack Reacher junkie who can’t wait to get his hands on the latest Lee Child novel and devour it. It’s a bit like discovering that a world-renowned cordon bleuchef sneaks out in disguise to a motorway transport café to nosh down on greasy burgers and fries loaded with red sauce.

In his article, Gekowski admits that, “. . . no one, I imagine, values Child for the quality of his prose. One can hardly find, in the entire corpus of the work, a single sentence worthy of independent admiration.”Yet, like Clare with Robbins, he can’t put him down. I guess some ‘smart readers’ need the occasional literary junk food fix.

In my view, as a writer, Child is bloody awful, his prose poor, overwritten and uninspiring. In comparison with Lee Child, Harold Robbins was a disciplined literary genius. The Jack Reacher series is bad writing in essence. An English teacher might well use it in class to demonstrate how NOT to write. But does it ever sell. Over 70 million worldwide at this time. Plus all those Amazon downloads. Wow. But how? It beats the hell out of me.

Here’s a question I ask myself. Would the Jack Reacher Series be the success it is if it were well-written and thoroughly edited? And the answer? Probably not.

Quite obviously there exists a vast market out there for this stuff, and Lee Child is delivering what it wants and getting rich in the process. It seems these readers not only don’t care, it appears they even love this literary dross. For me, it’s another sad reflection on the dumbing-down of Western civilization.

Writing was the first to fall. Think of those university graduates who can’t compose a simple job application letter and need to hire professionals to do it. Now, it seems the ability to read-well is withering away.

So there it is. Bad writing sells; big time. But I don’t advise going there. It’s a swamp. A quagmire. Lee Child was and is lucky; chances are you won’t be. Keep your feet on solid ground and stick with good writing? It also sells though not in such a frenzy as the Jack Reacher stuff. But don’t lose heart. Respect the English language. It’s a great, rugged and virile language with a body of literature behind it that has no equal. Use it well and write your best. And make every word count.

PS.

Jack Reacher is becoming a small industry. There’s now a Jack Reacher online game. And Jack Reacher Custom Coffee is available: ‘Robust. Full Bodied. Battle Tested’ plus a matching coffee mug.

Tony McManus resides in Chiang Mai, Thailand.

He can be found at:

http://tony-mcmanus.com

http://downeastern.wixsite.com/tonymcmanuswriter

or via his email: downeastern@hotmail.com

He has recently published a thriller: The Sum of Things, Book #1in the James Fallon Series. https://amzn.to/2u0EFwj

He is also the author of the novel: The Iran Deception. http://amzn.to/1Ppb45P

And a short story compilation: Down and Out in the Big Mango.http://amzn.to/1FetYVl

He is presently writing Book #2 in the James Fallon Series and working on a crime novel: Bangkok Retribution,the first book in a new series featuring sleuth Mike Villiers.

…thanks for this, Tony… see yeez later … LUV YEEZ!

ALL MY BLOG POSTS ARE FREE TO SHARE OR RE-BLOG SHOULD YOU SO WISH—BE MY GUEST!

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…Authors, are yeez serious about a series?… Tony McManus shares his views…

…as a writer of a crime thriller series myself, my pal Tony McManus‘s WURDS are of more than passing interest to me…

BRINGING THE CURTAIN DOWN

Though it may be a well-written prize winner, a one-off book, a stand-alone novel, has little chance of commercial success in today’s reading market. The mass of readers wants recurring heroes, protagonists who return to deliver the goods of more adventures. It’s something a reader can look forward to and feel comfortable with. Series novels are the thing. And looking back, reading of the army of fans who followed Arthur Conan-Doyle and eagerly awaited his latest Sherlock Holmes treat, I feel it’s always been so. Now it’s big time.

Series novels are invariably thrillers in the crime, mystery and espionage genres. Some come about by accident. They begin with a single book, which is then followed by another, perhaps a sequel, and then a third and so it goes on. Others are intended from the beginning. My new novel, ‘The Sum of Things’ recently launched on Amazon’s Kindle, is one of these. It’s the first in what I intend and hope to be a long and successful series.

While writing my novel, I got to thinking about how long a series should run for? Given that it’s successful, how far should a writer continue producing his series before calling it quits? And what criteria should he/she use to govern the series continuance? Intrigued, I began to examine some recent thriller series novels.

Probably, the most popular thriller series today has to be the Jack Reacher novels of Lee Child. Two of the novels: ‘One Shot’ and ‘Never Go Back’ have been turned into successful and money-spinning movies starring Tom Cruise.

Beginning in 1997 with ‘Killing Floor’ this writer has consistently produced a novel a year, for twenty years, many of them gaining awards. His latest, ‘Midnight Line,’ #22 in the series, will be released in November. His previous novel ‘Night School’ (#21) has garnered 5,464 reviews and counting on Amazon. I’m impressed. As only a small minority of readers bother to write a review, that gives some indication of the sales numbers Child’s books are enjoying. And sales have to be one of the major indices a writer will use in deciding to continue or not. But in reading some of the Jack Reacher reviews, I can see that cracks are appearing.

Many readers, some die-hard fans of the series, complain that the plots are becoming hackneyed and see Child struggling to come up with new situations and fresh story ideas, his style becoming more formulaic and his villains are turning into ‘buffoonish cartoons.’ It seems that Child’s creative well could be running dry. Nevertheless, based on current popularity, I’m sure we’ll see more of Jack Reacher.

Among other works, that fine British writer, Stephen Leather has now published fourteen novels in his Dan ‘Spider’ Shepard thriller series and is still getting good reviews.

Another successful series has been Andy McNab’s Nick Stone Series of thrillers. Book #19 ‘Line of Fire’ is due out in October 2017. But get this: it can be preordered on Amazon Kindle for a whopping US$ 26.78! Wow. How’s that for cheek? Not a hardback mind, an e-book. It would take a long cold day in hell before I would pay 27 bucks for a gift-wrapped, signed hardback edition much less a Kindle e-book. His previous book, ‘Cold Blood’ #18 in the series, carries a price tag of US$ 14.24, still too expensive for a Kindle novel I feel. And the reviews for this series don’t cut it anymore. The 2 and 3-star revues surpass the 4 and 5 stars; not a good sign. It’s time he quit, but I feel Andy will press on. It may be he’s seen the writing on the wall and decided to make as much as he can before it crashes.

An outstanding series of recent years was the Inspector Morse Series by the British writer, Colin Dexter. Made into a television drama with that fine actor, John Thaw, in the role of Morse, it was excellent, well produced and I enjoyed it immensely. And part way through the television series I turned my attention to the books and enjoyed them even more.

Dexter wrote thirteen Morse novels, beginning with ‘The Last Bus to Woodstock,’ and ending with ‘A Remorseful Day,’ in which Morse dies. Yes, he brought his series to a close by killing off his protagonist. Dexter made no apologies or explanation. It was the writer’s decision and his alone and therefore had to be. But his fans were disappointed, myself included.

In making Morse a heavy drinker with poor dietary habits and indifferent to his health, could it be that Dexter was setting his hero up for a finale where he could bring on the fatal heart attack that would end the series whenever he chose to? It does seem that way to me. It is worth recording that he killed Morse in a satisfying way and closed his series on a high note, his last novel receiving splendid reviews. Not for Colin Dexter the disappointing reviews of frustrated fans.

And it was death that ended another great series; the James Bond saga. Not the death of Bond, but that of his creator, Ian Fleming.

When Fleming died beside that English golf course on the 12th of August 1964 at the age of fifty-six, it brought to a close a fascinating series. Not a great writer; he didn’t have to be. But he was good. And though it’s perhaps true that he wrote fantasies for adult children, his prose was lean and spare, and every word counted. His novels were page turners, and he was eminently readable.

His last novel, ‘The Man with the Golden Gun,’ unfinished at the time of his death, was cobbled together by his publisher, Jonathan Cape and published eight months later. A poor job that lacked everything we fans expected from a Bond novel, it received poor though respectful reviews. I didn’t enjoy it much. It seems that heavy smoking and lifestyle-induced ill health had taken their toll on the writer. But, unsurprisingly, it was an instant bestseller in both hard and paperback form.

Fleming left behind a corpus of twelve Bond novels and some short story compilations, and so it was over. Or should have been. However, the publishing house, Jonathan Cape refused to accept it, and with the compliance of the author’s estate, they began searching for writers able to write Bond stories in the style of Fleming in what became known as the ‘continuation’ Bond novels.

First off the blocks was Kingsley Amis. Using the pseudonym, Robert Markham, Amis produced the novel, ‘Colonel Sun.’ It got mixed reviews and sold well. Bond fan that I was, I didn’t enjoy it. And I don’t read any more of the continuation series which continues to this day. Though a thing apart, the Bond film franchise seems to be unending with a fan base who’ve never heard of Ian Fleming. For me, Ian Fleming’s alter ego, James Bond, died along with his creator that August morning in 1964. R.I.P.

Should a writer ‘age’ his protagonist as a series progresses or should he make him ageless, impervious to time and therefore able to hold the ring forever and a day? I believe in the first option; it’s closer to reality and makes him more credible. And so does Lee Child. Born in 1960, Jack Reacher will turn fifty-seven on the 29th of October. Retirement at sixty? It would seem logical. The clock is ticking.

And if we were to give James Bond the age of thirty-nine when he faced down Le Chiffre at the baccarat table in that casino in Royale in 1952 he would be 104 years old today. He doesn’t look it in the movies though, and the continuation writers also seem to have ignored this reality.

My boy, James Fallon, stepping up and showing his credentials in ‘The Sum of Things,’ is a youthful thirty-five in 2017, so he has lots of things to do, lots of villains to destroy and lots of time to do it in. It’s up to me.

Several factors may determine the time to bring down the curtain on a series.

The advancing age or failing health of the author.

The author’s desire to write other things in other genres (it was Arthur Conan-Doyle’s desire to write more historical fiction that resulted in Sherlock Holmes ‘death’ at Reichenbach Falls).

Increasingly poor reviews telling the author his ability to produce good stories is faltering and on the wane and the series has run its course.

But if the series is highly successful, sells well and brings in much money, an author would be sorely tempted to press on regardless of poor reviews. To close it down would be like killing a Golden Goose.

I have to conclude there can no hard fast rule on this. At the bottom end you have writers who publish series schlock, written fast and aimed at low-brow readers with the single intent to make money. Such crap should never see the light of day. At the top end, we have a good example in Lee Child’s Jack Reacher series, going strong for twenty years and twenty-two novels. I hope my James Fallon series takes the same route. And I’ll be more than happy if it’s half as successful.

Tony McManus was born in Manchester, England. He resides alternately in Chiang Mai, Thailand and Ste. Adele, Quebec, Canada

He can be found at: http://downeastern.wix.com/tonymcmanuswriter Or via his email: downeastern@hotmail.com

He has recently published: The Sum of Things, Book #1 in a new thriller series. http://amzn.to/2yvv8OC

He is also the author of a novel: The Iran Deception. http://amzn.to/1Ppb45P

And a short story compilation: Down and Out in the Big Mango. http://amzn.to/1FetYVl

He is presently working on two crime novels: Bangkok Retribution, the first book in a series featuring sleuth Mike Villiers.

…thanks for that, Tony

…see yeez later… LUV YEEZ!

ALL MY BLOG POSTS ARE FREE TO SHARE OR RE-BLOG SHOULD YOU SO WISH—BE MY GUEST!

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…another dollop of WURDS of wisdom from my pal, Author, Tony McManus…

…my pal, Author, Tony McManus, offers more superb advice for yer writing, Lads and Lassies of Blog Land…

tony

THE GOLDEN RULE

Shakespeare was a master of it. Ernest Hemingway almost perfected it. George Orwell advocated it. And every writer should obey and apply it, particularly in editing and revision. Observe it when writing a memo, email, a Facebook post, a blog or a prize-winning masterwork. It applies to every kind of writing. It’s rule number one, the most important and never to be broken. Make every word count. It speaks for itself when you think about it, yet, it’s a rule regularly violated. Why?

It’s apparent to me that most writers today don’t apply it. Maybe they’ve never heard of the rule and its importance in good writing. I got it drilled into me at school from strict teachers. “Make every word count.”

Writers disregard for it is especially evident in fiction writing, and more especially in self-published works on Amazon Kindle. It seems the opposite is now in vogue (see my blog: Padding it Out: Word Inflation in Fiction). We find writers deliberately inflating their work using a variety of methods such as redundant sentences, unnecessary sub-plots, overblown or meaningless dialogue, wordy descriptions of characters and places and, of course, vivid and gratuitous sex scenes.

I believe that writers often come up with a story idea that is essentially a good short story plot but doesn’t have the legs to be the heart of a novel or even a novella. Consequently they pad it out, often under editorial encouragement. It’s common; it’s sad but true.

The corollary of the rule is: that every single word should build sentences and paragraphs that drive the plot forward, establish the setting and develop characters. If it doesn’t, take it out.

I know a talented lady writer of short stories and novellas in the romantic erotica genre; not a genre I follow, mainly because it’s usually poorly written. But she writes it well, impressively so.

On her site she announced she was writing a novel; part one of a trilogy. A mystery thriller, set in an exotic Caribbean location, it opened well. But unfortunately, the story idea just couldn’t punch its weight. Consequently, the novel got the “padding” treatment; all of it, complete with an utterly gratuitous, and brutal, sex scene. I was most disappointed, but it’s par for the course.

The rule requires discipline and is not easy to apply. But if a writer keeps it in mind he goes a long way to achieving it. Reading good writing is also important as it shows how it should be done. In my view, a healthy literary diet is essential for writers and editors. It can, of course, be spiced it up with some literary junk with no harm done, but we become what we read. If a writer reads too much crap, he’ll write crap. If an editor reads too much crap, she’ll allow crap to pass her by uncorrected. The evidence for this abounds.

Shakespeare, as I mentioned, was a master of it. Go read him. Read a piece from one of his plays. Read a Sonnet. Then try to find a word you can take out. Here he is on Love:

Let me not to the marriage of true minds

                     Admit impediments. Love is not love

                       Which alters when it alteration finds,

                       Or bends with the remover to remove:

                       O no; it is an ever-fixed mark,

                      That looks on tempests, and is never shaken;

                       It is the star to every wandering bark,

                       Whose worth’s unknown, although his height be taken.

On Valour:

Cowards die many times before their deaths.

                       The valiant never taste of death but once.

                       Of all the wonders that I yet have heard,

                       It seems to me most strange that men should fear,

                       Seeing that death, a necessary end,

                       Will come when it will come.

 

No redundancy there.

The rule also applies to the spoken word. Far too much meaningless verbiage comes out of peoples’ mouths and, no surprise here, politicians are especially guilty. Here’s a recent statement from British ex-prime minister Tony Blair pontificating on Muslim extremism.

“The reality is that in parts of the Muslim community a

discourse has grown up which is profoundly hostile to

peaceful coexistence. Countering this is an essential

part of fighting extremism.” (Flabby and overblown)

 

“In parts of the Muslim community, a discourse exists

hostile to peaceful coexistence. Countering this is an

essential part of fighting extremism.” (Better)

 

“Among Muslims, discourse hostile to religious tolerance

abounds. In combating extremism, it is essential to counter

such discourse.” (Much better)

 

I think the last word must go to that wonderful text, The Elements of Style.

“Vigorous writing is concise. A sentence should contain no

unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences,

for the same reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary

lines and a machine no unnecessary parts. This requires not that

the writer make all his sentences short, or that he avoid all detail

and treat his subjects only in outline, but that every word tell.”

So, let us cut the flab and do it. Here’s to better writing and better reading. Cheers.

Tony McManus

Chiang Mai

Tony McManus was born in Manchester, England. He worked in many jobs to serve his passion for travel such as English teacher, bar tender, taxi driver, and in southern Africa, construction work in the Transvaal goldmines and the copper mines of Zambia. Tony pursues and advocates good health, via diet and exercise. An outdoorsman, sailor, kayaker and canoeist, he also loves hiking, cross country skiing and snowshoeing.

He is the author of an espionage novel: The Iran Deception based on his time in Israel. He recently published: Down And Out In The Big Mango, a collection of short stories set in Thailand. He resides alternately in Chiang Mai, Thailand and Ste. Adele, Quebec, Canada.

He can be found at: http://downeastern.wix.com/tonymcmanuswriter

Or via his email: downeastern@hotmail.com

Tony is the author of a novel: The Iran Deception. http://amzn.to/1Ppb45P

And a short story compilation: Down and Out in the Big Mango. http://amzn.to/1FetYVl

He has published several short stories:

Ray: http://amzn.to/1Ge6jq9

A Bangkok Solution: http://amzn.to/1A8LCuy

A Partner in Crime: http://amzn.to/1ENZpn2

The Bangkok SAS: http://amzn.to/1d5cVMb

He is presently working on two crime novels: A Bangkok Interlude, the first book in a series featuring sleuth Mike Villiers.

And The Sum of Things, the first book in a series featuring ex SAS hero, James Fallon.

 

…thanks , again, for the WURDS of wisdom, Tony… see yeez later… LUV YEEZ!

ALL MY BLOG POSTS ARE FREE TO SHARE OR RE-BLOG SHOULD YOU SO WISH—BE MY GUEST!

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…where did yeez get yer LUV of books from?.. regular visitor, Author Tony McManus tells his source…

…my regular blog post visitor and pal, Author Tony McManus paints a picture for us :

 

tony

THE SPOKEN WORD

As a schoolboy, I was fortunate to have a teacher who enjoyed reading stories to his pupils. Every Friday afternoon around 3.30 Mr. Cassidy would sit on a desk and gather us boys in a close circle around him and for the final thirty minutes of the school day he would read to us.

Mr. Cassidy was from Ireland and had the God-given gift of a beautiful voice. The first story he read to us was R L. Stevenson’s novel, “Treasure Island.” And he didn’t simply read; he dramatized. He took us out of the cold Manchester grime and on down to the Cornwall coast and the Admiral Benbow Inn. And here we met Jim Hawkins, Dr. Livesey, Squire Trelawney, Long John Silver and the good ship “Hispaniola” and the heroes and villains who sailed in her. Spellbound, I would close my eyes and listen as he read. I’ve since read that book several times and always enjoyed it, but never quite as much as listening to Mr. Cassidy’s captivating narration.

Next up was “The Master of Ballantrae” followed by “Kidnapped” by the same author, Stevenson; adventure stories written for boys, enjoyed by men. And just before the Christmas break, we got Charles Dickens’s “A Christmas Carol.” What could be a better way to end the school year?

From this experience, I developed a love of radio plays such as BBC’s Afternoon Theatre, A Book at Bedtime and Appointment with Fear. For me, a radio play beats a television drama hands down, simply because you can use your imagination. I also came to enjoy reading stories to others and have often done so.

It’s to Mr. Cassidy that I owe my love of books. And over the years I’ve often recalled him, sitting on his desk in his rumpled tweed jacket, hunched over his open book reading to us, acting out the character’s parts and transporting us boys as on a magic carpet to distant lands and fabulous places. Good memories.

 

Tony McManus was born in Manchester, England. He worked in many jobs to serve his passion for travel such as English teacher, bar tender, taxi driver, and in southern Africa, construction work in the Transvaal goldmines and the copper mines of Zambia. Tony pursues and advocates good health, via diet and exercise. An outdoorsman, sailor, kayaker and canoeist, he also loves hiking, cross country skiing and snowshoeing.

He is the author of an espionage novel: The Iran Deception based on his time in Israel. He recently published: Down And Out In The Big Mango, a collection of short stories set in Thailand. He resides alternately in Chiang Mai, Thailand and Ste. Adele, Quebec, Canada.

He can be found at: http://downeastern.wix.com/tonymcmanuswriter

Or via his email: downeastern@hotmail.com

Tony is the author of a novel: The Iran Deception. http://amzn.to/1Ppb45P

And a short story compilation: Down and Out in the Big Mango.

On Amazon. http://amzn.to/1FetYVl

Books Mango. http://bit.ly/1ROSkhq

 

He has published several short stories:

Ray: http://amzn.to/1Ge6jq9

A Bangkok Solution: http://amzn.to/1HpWSzi

A Partner in Crime: http://amzn.to/1ENZpn2

The Bangkok SAS: http://amzn.to/1d5cVMb

He is presently working on two crime novels: Bangkok Retribution, the first book in a series featuring sleuth Mike Villiers.

And The Sum of Things in a series featuring ex SAS hero, James Fallon.

With luck and hard work, he expects both novels to see publication before the year’s end.

..thanks again for sharing, Tony… see yeez later …LUV YEEZ!…

ALL MY BLOG POSTS ARE FREE TO SHARE OR RE-BLOG SHOULD YOU SO WISH—BE MY GUEST!

 

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…Authors… looking for a good title?… Tony McManus has some tips for yeez…

…my irrepressible scribbling pal, Tony McManus has unearthed more fascinating gems regarding  book titles… have a wee peek…

tony

WHAT’S IN A NAME?

THE IMPORTANCE OF BOOK TITLES

IN FICTION

“…that which we call the rose by any other name would smell as sweet,” Shakespeare reminds us. And it’s true of most things in the world, but not in the world of books; especially fiction. Here’s my take on things.

Ernest Hemingway believed a title should have magic. I’ll buy that. A dull title can kill an otherwise good book. An inspiring one can help make it a best seller. In my view, a title should at least hint at the genre and tone of the work. It should be intriguing. It should also be unique; a writer should always check his title against existing works. Type your title into a search engine or Amazon.com and you’ll get to know if your title is original or someone has beaten you to it. I’ve often found several books carrying the same title, so beware.

It may be a single word such as: Retribution, Poison, Vengeance, or two: Bangkok Retribution, Poison Harvest, or a complete sentence: Vengeance Wears Black. It should not be too long as it does seem that short titles work best.

In 1924, a young writer sent off the manuscript of a novel to the publishing house, Charles Scribner’s Sons entitled Trimalchio in West Egg. The editor abhorred the title and suggested the author make a change. The writer came back with several other titles, all getting the thumbs down. They finally settled on The Great Gatsby. A good move don’t you think?

Though not a book of fiction, as a young anthropology student I was introduced to Bronisław Malinowski’s great work: Argonauts of the Western Pacific; a terrific title that. But it could easily have been called: An Ethnography of the People of the Trobriand Islands in the Archipelagoes of Melanesian New Guinea because that was what it was. Which is the better title?

It’s said that you don’t get a second chance to make a first impression. And the word coming in from agents and editors is that a book’s title is the best impression of your work and of you as an author. It’s a manuscript’s title that first captures the publishing house editor’s interest. More than a book’s cover, it’s the title on the spine that impels the bookstore browser to reach out for a book and take it down. And then, if he or she likes the cover and the publisher’s blurb, perhaps buy.

Book titles have always fascinated me. For awhile, I wondered how great writers came up with their inspiring titles. Hemingway, for example, who gave us:

For Whom The Bell Tolls

   A Farewell To Arms

   The Sun Also Rises

And what vision inspired John Steinbeck to create:

East of Eden                

   The Grapes of Wrath

   In Dubious Battle

Then I discovered the mundane truth. They purloined them. They swiped, high-jacked or borrowed them. Take a look.

For Whom The Bell Tolls       Meditation XVII, John Donne

A Farewell To Arms              A Farewell to Arms, George Peele

The Sun Also Rises              Ecclesiastes 1:5

East of Eden                     Genesis 4:16

The Grapes of Wrath              The Battle Hymn of the Republic, Julia Ward Howe

   In Dubious Battle                 Paradise Lost, John Milton

Scott Fitzgerald took Tender is the Night from John Keats poem Ode to a Nightingale. Thackeray got Vanity Fair from John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress. James Jones’ first novel: From Here to Eternity was a bestseller, received critical acclaim and won him a National Book Award. Based on his Second World War experiences, it and was made into a successful film starring Burt Lancaster and Deborah Kerr. Frank Sinatra made a hit record of the theme song. It made Jones rich and set him on the path of literary success. But it was Rudyard Kipling who supplied the title:

Gentlemen-rankers out on a spree,

Damned from here to Eternity,

God ha’ mercy on such as we.

The list of writers who outsourced in this manner is endless and includes Somerset Maugham, George Bernard Shaw, Eugene O’Neil, Aldous Huxley, William Faulkner and so many more.

So fear not. If you’re stuck, just remember that the works of Shakespeare, dead writers and poets and the St. James Bible have proved a mine field for the writer seeking a good title. Writers have even been known to take a well-known phrase or verse and move the words around. David Halberstam did this with his Pulitzer Prize winning book The Best and the Brightest, the title of which he borrowed from Heber’s hymn.

Brightest and best of the sons of the morning,

Dawn on our darkness, and lend us thine aid;

So, if finding a title for your novel is proving difficult go ahead and check out the Bard, ransack the Bible and dig into some old literature and poetical works. You’re in great company.

Would I do it? Would I steal a line from a Shakespeare Sonnet or a poem of Byron’s? Would I lift a quote from Ecclesiastes or Genesis for a book title? You betcha. And with no qualms at all I should add. In fact, I’m doing it now.

The novel I’m presently working on, an adventure thriller once called: The Company of Men has now been re-titled: The Sum of Things. I’ve “borrowed” it from a poem by Houseman:

These, in the day when heaven was falling,

The hour when earth’s foundations fled,

 Followed their mercenary calling,                                                

And took their wages, and are dead.

 

Their shoulders held the sky suspended;

They stood, and earth’s foundations stay;

What God abandoned, these defended,

And saved the sum of things for pay.

 

Epitaph on an Army of Mercenaries

A.E. Housman

It could be that further down the path I’ll change it again. But that’s how it stands at the moment. Cheers, and good title hunting.

Tony McManus

Chiang Mai

Thailand

Tony McManus was born in Manchester, England. He worked in many jobs to serve his passion for travel such as English teacher, bar tender, taxi driver, and in southern Africa, construction work in the Transvaal goldmines and the copper mines of Zambia. Tony pursues and advocates good health, via diet and exercise. An outdoorsman, sailor, kayaker and canoeist, he also loves hiking, cross country skiing and snowshoeing.

He is the author of an espionage novel: The Iran Deception based on his time in Israel. He recently published: Down And Out In The Big Mango, a collection of short stories set in Thailand. He resides alternately in Chiang Mai, Thailand and Ste. Adele, Quebec, Canada.

He can be found at: http://downeastern.wix.com/tonymcmanuswriter

Or via his email: downeastern@hotmail.com

Tony is the author of a novel: The Iran Deception. http://amzn.to/1Ppb45P

And a short story compilation: Down and Out in the Big Mango.

On Amazon. http://amzn.to/1FetYVl

Books Mango. http://bit.ly/1ROSkhq

 

He has published several short stories:

Ray: http://amzn.to/1Ge6jq9

A Bangkok Solution: http://amzn.to/1HpWSzi

A Partner in Crime: http://amzn.to/1ENZpn2

The Bangkok SAS: http://amzn.to/1d5cVMb

He is presently working on two crime novels: Bangkok Retribution, the first book in a series featuring sleuth Mike Villiers.

And The Sum of Things in a series featuring ex SAS hero, James Fallon.

With luck and hard work, he expects both novels to see publication before the year’s end.

…see yeez later… LUV YEEZ!

ALL MY BLOG POSTS ARE FREE TO SHARE OR RE-BLOG SHOULD YOU SO WISH—BE MY GUEST!

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…writer pal, Tony McManus, reminds us of the timeless wisdom of Elmore Leonard on the scribblers’ art…

..thanks for this, Tony McManus…

tony

…the WURDS speak for themselves… have a wee read, Lads and Lassies of Blog Land …

ADVICE ON WRITING WELL

OR

JOE BLOW’S TIPS FOR GOOD WRITING

The best writing advice in the world has already been given. Written decades ago by Orwell and other masters of the English language, it’s worth its weight in gold. And it’s available to all on the internet. A few strokes on the keypad and it’s yours. It doesn’t need repeating. Yet so often a writer such as Joe Blow, Author, after selling a few books in Kindle and garnering a truckload of ***** reviews like: Awesome baby u did it agen: luv u, decides that he has enough standing and mileage under his belt to offer advice to his fellow writers on writing well and the pitfalls to avoid. And then, on his blog, lists that which we already know. It really pisses me off.

So it was refreshing to come across Elmore Leonard’s 10 rules of good writing. Leonard needs no introduction. If you haven’t read his stuff and love thrillers you’re missing out, big time. For over sixty years he wrote superb novels; first westerns, then crime thrillers set in Miami and Detroit. Many of his books became notable films. And his list of rules is original and delivered with wry humour. Enjoy and remember them.

ELMORE LEONARD’S 10 RULES FOR GOOD WRITING

 These are rules I’ve picked up along the way to help me remain invisible when I’m writing a book, to help me show rather than tell what’s taking place in the story. If you have a facility for language and imagery and the sound of your voice pleases you, invisibility is not what you are after, and you can skip the rules. Still, you might look them over.

  1. Never open a book with weather.

If it’s only to create atmosphere, and not a character’s reaction to the weather, you don’t want to go on too long. The reader is apt to leaf ahead looking for people. There are exceptions. If you happen to be Barry Lopez, who has more ways to describe ice and snow than an Eskimo, you can do all the weather reporting you want.

  1. Avoid prologues.

They can be annoying, especially a prologue following an introduction that comes after a foreword. But these are ordinarily found in nonfiction. A prologue in a novel is backstory, and you can drop it in anywhere you want.

There is a prologue in John Steinbeck’s ”Sweet Thursday,” but it’s O.K. because a character in the book makes the point of what my rules are all about. He says: ”I like a lot of talk in a book and I don’t like to have nobody tell me what the guy that’s talking looks like. I want to figure out what he looks like from the way he talks. . . . figure out what the guy’s thinking from what he says. I like some description but not too much of that. . . . Sometimes I want a book to break loose with a bunch of hooptedoodle. . . . Spin up some pretty words maybe or sing a little song with language. That’s nice. But I wish it was set aside so I don’t have to read it. I don’t want hooptedoodle to get mixed up with the story.”

  1. Never use a verb other than ”said” to carry dialogue.

The line of dialogue belongs to the character; the verb is the writer sticking his nose in. But said is far less intrusive than grumbled, gasped, cautioned, lied. I once noticed Mary McCarthy ending a line of dialogue with ”she asseverated,” and had to stop reading to get the dictionary.

  1. Never use an adverb to modify the verb ”said” . . .

. . . he admonished gravely. To use an adverb this way (or almost any way) is a mortal sin. The writer is now exposing himself in earnest, using a word that distracts and can interrupt the rhythm of the exchange. I have a character in one of my books tell how she used to write historical romances ”full of rape and adverbs.”

       5. Keep your exclamation points under control.

You are allowed no more than two or three per 100,000 words of prose. If you have the knack of playing with exclaimers the way Tom Wolfe does, you can throw them in by the handful.

  1. Never use the words ”suddenly” or ”all hell broke loose.”

This rule doesn’t require an explanation. I have noticed that writers who use ”suddenly” tend to exercise less control in the application of exclamation points.

  1. Use regional dialect, patois, sparingly.

Once you start spelling words in dialogue phonetically and loading the page with apostrophes, you won’t be able to stop. Notice the way Annie Proulx captures the flavor of Wyoming voices in her book of short stories ”Close Range.”

  1. Avoid detailed descriptions of characters.

Which Steinbeck covered. In Ernest Hemingway’s ”Hills Like White Elephants” what do the ”American and the girl with him” look like? ”She had taken off her hat and put it on the table.” That’s the only reference to a physical description in the story, and yet we see the couple and know them by their tones of voice, with not one adverb in sight.

  1. Don’t go into great detail describing places and things.

Unless you’re Margaret Atwood and can paint scenes with language or write landscapes in the style of Jim Harrison. But even if you’re good at it, you don’t want descriptions that bring the action, the flow of the story, to a standstill.

And finally:

  1. Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip.

A rule that came to mind in 1983. Think of what you skip reading a novel: thick paragraphs of prose you can see have too many words in them. What the writer is doing, he’s writing, perpetrating hooptedoodle, perhaps taking another shot at the weather, or has gone into the character’s head, and the reader either knows what the guy’s thinking or doesn’t care. I’ll bet you don’t skip dialogue.

My most important rule is one that sums up the 10.

If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it.

Or, if proper usage gets in the way, it may have to go. I can’t allow what we learned in English composition to disrupt the sound and rhythm of the narrative. It’s my attempt to remain invisible, not distract the reader from the story with obvious writing. (Joseph Conrad said something about words getting in the way of what you want to say.)

If I write in scenes and always from the point of view of a particular character — the one whose view best brings the scene to life — I’m able to concentrate on the voices of the characters telling you who they are and how they feel about what they see and what’s going on, and I’m nowhere in sight.

What Steinbeck did in ”Sweet Thursday” was title his chapters as an indication, though obscure, of what they cover. ”Whom the Gods Love They Drive Nuts” is one, ”Lousy Wednesday” another. The third chapter is titled ”Hooptedoodle 1” and the 38th chapter ”Hooptedoodle 2” as warnings to the reader, as if Steinbeck is saying: ”Here’s where you’ll see me taking flights of fancy with my writing, and it won’t get in the way of the story. Skip them if you want.”

”Sweet Thursday” came out in 1954, when I was just beginning to be published, and I’ve never forgotten that prologue.

Did I read the hooptedoodle chapters? Every word.

 

…Wasn’t that good advice, dear reader? Well worth noting and applying, I feel.

Tony McManus

Chiang Mai

Thailand.

Tony McManus was born in Manchester, England. He worked in many jobs to serve his passion for travel such as English teacher, bar tender, taxi driver, and in southern Africa, construction work in the Transvaal goldmines and the copper mines of Zambia. Tony pursues and advocates good health, via diet and exercise. An outdoorsman, sailor, kayaker and canoeist, he also loves hiking, cross country skiing and snowshoeing.

He is the author of an espionage novel: The Iran Deception based on his time in Israel. He recently published: Down And Out In The Big Mango, a collection of short stories set in Thailand. He resides alternately in Chiang Mai, Thailand and Ste. Adele, Quebec, Canada.

He can be found at: http://downeastern.wix.com/tonymcmanuswriter

Or via his email: downeastern@hotmail.com

Tony is the author of a novel: The Iran Deception. http://amzn.to/1Ppb45P

And a short story compilation: Down and Out in the Big Mango.

On Amazon. http://amzn.to/1FetYVl

Books Mango. http://bit.ly/1ROSkhq

 

He has published several short stories:

Ray: http://amzn.to/1Ge6jq9

A Bangkok Solution: http://amzn.to/1HpWSzi

A Partner in Crime: http://amzn.to/1ENZpn2

The Bangkok SAS: http://amzn.to/1d5cVMb

He is presently working on two crime novels: Bangkok Retribution, the first book in a series featuring sleuth Mike Villiers.

And The Sum of Things in a series featuring ex SAS hero, James Fallon.

With luck and hard work, he expects both novels to see publication before the year’s end.

 

ALL MY BLOG POSTS ARE FREE TO SHARE OR RE-BLOG SHOULD YOU SO WISH—BE MY GUEST!

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…contributing Blogger pal, Author Tony McManus has an excellent piece on WURD ‘padding’…

…ever had that feeling that an Author has decided, ‘why use only one WURD when two dozen will do?’... my pal, Author, Tony McManus uses just enough to tell yeez how to avoid it in yer own scribbling…

tony 

PADDING IT OUT

WORD INFLATION IN FICTION

 Ever picked up a novel, read it and come to the conclusion that it was not much of a deal, far too long, overblown and containing little meat? I’ve done it often, and no doubt will endure it again. I’ve read more than a few short stories that have been padded out and published as novellas or even full-house, novels. Maybe I possess what Hemingway called a “built-in shit detector” as I can sense this padding instinctively. It’s become a quirk that irritates me.

I recently read, on Kindle, a novella in the crime-thriller genre. Though competently written, it was packed with unnecessary scenes, vivid scenery descriptions, subplots, dinner table dialog, and comments on the dishes being served. A good, serious, editor would have cut this excess baggage out and reduced it to the short story that it truly was.

Is this inflation done by accident or design? I’d say both, but most often by accident. I’m sure many writers simply get carried away by their brilliance and feel they just have to put all this stuff in; they love it so why won’t the reader? I feel it in myself; the urge to write descriptive verbiage that reads great, but doesn’t advance the story one jot and even clogs things up. It’s a content editor’s job to bring us back down to earth. But what if we like it up there and don’t want to come down? In this time of digital self-publishing this is a problem, right? We can just go ahead and publish. I believe this is why padding is more prevalent today among indie writers than under the old regime.

Many indie writers in this age of Kindle, reject editors seeing them as representing the bad old days of publishing house dictatorship, intruders intent on destroying the purity of their ideas and narrative flow. Why pay someone to criticize, cut your work to ribbons and make your story theirs? And where a publishing house would exercise control over this foolishness and employ their in-house editors, today such writers are free to refuse all editorial restraint and publish.

One of Elmore Leonard’s 10 Rules for Good Writing is: “Try to leave out the parts readers tend to skip.” A fine piece of advice I find. And with it in mind, I try to apply strict self-discipline. In the novel, I’m writing I had a description of how my protagonist, Mike met his Thai wife, Soraya, at the Ambassador’s Inauguration Ball in the US Embassy in Bangkok. A dramatic piece that read well, I polished it and made it better. Then, I remembered Leonard’s admonishment and reluctantly cut it out. It hurt, but as it didn’t advance the story, it was deleted. Who cares that Mike met Soraya dancing to Strauss?

It’s important for writers to recognize who they are and what they are capable of. And a writer who knows his limitations holds a powerful asset. Few writers could seriously take on a War and Peace. It took a genius to produce David Copperfield, A Tale of Two Cities and A Christmas Carol; but, like Tolstoy, Dickens was a genius. Such writers are thin on the ground.

Apart from the ability to write well and tell a story, a fiction writer should have a good imagination. He should be able to weigh a story idea for what it’s worth. What might make a terrific short story may turn out a poor novel that requires padding to make the weight. But it won’t punch its weight.

My short story, Ray, created a minor sensation when I published it on a Thailand website. I got emails suggesting I expand it into a novel. I thought seriously about it. I could do it, but it wouldn’t be Ray anymore, and so I rejected the idea. Ray is a short story, and it’s going to stay that way.

Some writers seem destined for short stories. Jack London, always a favorite author of mine, was one. Jack, whose own life story reads like a Norse Saga, was a great writer yet he never wrote a great novel. He did write a great novella: The Call of the Wild a literary triumph that’s never out of print and been filmed many times. However, it’s for his superb short stories, tales of the Yukon Gold Rush and the South Pacific Islands; that he is honored. His short piece: To Build a Fire has been voted the best short story of all time. But try to find his novels.

The indie revolution that ended the injustices of the old publishing house dictatorship has no stronger champion than me. I’m grateful for the big break it gave me. But has not the pendulum swung over too far? For it too has a downside we should recognize and face up to; it’s totally undisciplined. Now anyone can publish anything. And they do.

Meet Priscilla Anne Case, a sweet, gentle single girl, 22 years old, working on the Costco checkout line in Laramie, Wyoming. She left school at fifteen and has never traveled east of the Mississippi River. She loves the television soaps, Facebook chat, and her smartphone. She’s never written anything above an email. But she’s about to write a romantic, paranormal saga, replete with vampires and neo-Nazi white supremacists, in the form of a two thousand word, bodice ripping, trilogy. She’ll write it in six months and self-publish it, free of editorial interference, on Amazon. She may even publish each book as a four part boxed set. Go for it, girl, there’s nothing to stop you.

An adage has it that if you take one hundred thousand chimpanzees, give each an easel, canvas and a pallet of paints, in a year you’ll get a Rembrandt. In the indie world it seems we’re still waiting for our literary Rembrandts. But wait, hold on. I’m convinced they’re there. Look hard and you’ll find them; beautiful, superbly written books in all genres, waiting like buried treasure, hidden beneath the surface of that sad sea of bloated mediocrity that is Amazon’s slush pile.

 

 

Tony McManus was born in Manchester, England. He worked in many jobs to serve his passion for travel such as English teacher, bar tender, taxi driver, and in southern Africa, construction work in the Transvaal goldmines and the copper mines of Zambia. Tony pursues and advocates good health, via diet and exercise. An outdoorsman, sailor, kayaker and canoeist, he also loves hiking, cross country skiing and snowshoeing.

He is the author of an espionage novel: The Iran Deception based on his time in Israel. He recently published: Down And Out In The Big Mango, a collection of short stories set in Thailand. He resides alternately in Chiang Mai, Thailand and Ste. Adele, Quebec, Canada.

He can be found at: http://downeastern.wix.com/tonymcmanuswriter

Or via his email: downeastern@hotmail.com

Tony is the author of a novel: The Iran Deception. http://amzn.to/1Ppb45P

And a short story compilation: Down and Out in the Big Mango. http://amzn.to/1FetYVl

He has published several short stories:

Ray: http://amzn.to/1Ge6jq9

A Bangkok Solution: http://amzn.to/1A8LCuy

A Partner in Crime: http://amzn.to/1ENZpn2

The Bangkok SAS: http://amzn.to/1d5cVMb

He is presently working on two crime novels: A Bangkok Interlude, the first book in a series featuring sleuth Mike Villiers.

And The Company of Men, the first book in a series featuring ex SAS hero, James Fallon.

He expects both novels to see publication before the year’s end.

…see yeez later… LUV YEEZ!…

ALL MY BLOG POSTS ARE FREE TO SHARE OR RE-BLOG SHOULD YOU SO WISH—BE MY GUEST!

 

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…the thinking reader’s writer… another insightful piece from Author pal, Tony McManus… enjoy…

…one of the trickiest parts of fiction writing for any writer, newbie or well-established is in the treatment of (shhhhh..) sex scenes… my Author mate, Tony McManus, puts his perspective superbly well in this excellent piece…

tony

SEX SCENES IN FICTION

Good authors too, who once knew better words

                       Now only use four letter words writing prose

                       Anything goes

Cole Porter

 

“Buddy, that sex scene you’re planning for your suspense adventure thriller. The one where Mike, your hero, makes his move on that lovely Japanese lotus blossom, Kitty, and gets her up to his hotel room and……”

“You mean the one in chapter four, just after she……..”

“Yes that’s the one; the hot, steamy scene where you go to town, stun your readers, and really show your mettle as a writer.”

“What about it?”

“Do yourself a big favor and leave it out.”

“Why?”

“It’s not necessary. It doesn’t advance the plot or enhance the story.”

“But it’s the best….”

“Believe me. Just leave it out and forget about it.”

Good advice I believe, but often spurned by so many writers of fiction. Even well-known, highly rated and respected authors have fallen into the sex scene trap. In my opinion, unless you’re writing in the genres of erotica and romance, intimate sex scenes are better left out. Written poorly, as they usually are, vivid sex scenes can kill an otherwise excellent novel.

In works of erotica, highly descriptive sex scenes are de rigueur; the reader expects them. That’s what the genre is about. Writers of romance novels usually don’t go that far, are more restrained, sailing as close to the wind as good taste allows. But in both cases, the love scenes should be well written and most often they are not. Writing credible and exciting sex scenes is a specialized skill few writers have. But, unfortunately, the temptations to go into that quagmire, the graveyard of so much good writing, are many and for some authors irresistible.

For so long it was impossible. In Britain, The Obscene Publications Act saw to that; other countries, such as the USA had similar draconian laws. But, in London in November 1960, an Old Bailey jury found for the publisher, Penguin Books, the defendant in the Lady Chatterley’s Lover obscenity trial and the floodgates cracked open. Writers pushed the envelope against the bulwark of Puritans and “defenders of decency” and eventually prevailed. They could now write anything they wished, and publishers could publish it and purchasers buy and read it. And so it was. And so it is. Anything goes.

But are we any better off really. Despite the strict censorship that constrained them, writers such as Hemingway, Faulkner, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Somerset Maugham, and so many others produced beautiful books. Would their works have been improved by explicit sex scenes? Would The Great Gatsby be a better novel if Fitzgerald had included a hot scene with Jay Gatsby screwing Daisy Buchanan? Would A Farewell to Arms be a better work if Hemingway had added an intimate scene with Frederic Henry making love to Catherine Barkley? It takes a lot more than the freedom to write pages full of “F..k you, you motherf…er” or descriptions of sexual intimacy that would embarrass the mamasan of a Mumbai whorehouse, to produce an outstanding novel.

But sex sells, I hear you say. It sure does. And isn’t having sex is what people do? Yes, there’s no doubt about it. And I think it’s fair to say that there’s nothing wrong with having your protagonist make out with a beautiful woman once in a while. Some suspense thrillers do have intense sexual passion at their core. It was this that drove such classics as James M. Cain’s Double Indemnity and The Postman Always Rings Twice. But knowing how much to describe and how much leave up to the reader’s imagination is where the difficulty lies.

That accomplished writer and cool dude, Elmore Leonard handled sex skillfully in his novels, never intruding too far and as often leaving it out. And, given the zeitgeist of his time, Ian Fleming also handled it well. We know that James Bond made out with Vesper Lynd, Tatiana Romanova, Kissy Suzuki, Tiffany Case, Pussy Galore and others, but it happened in the reader’s imagination. Only once, in the case of Vesper Lynd, did Fleming take us into the bedroom, but he did so with reason; it advanced the story as Vesper was a KGB operative, a double agent.

Sex, the most intimate of human acts, usually takes place in the privacy of a bedroom with no witnesses. Writers should show their respect and keep it that way. But if an author feels impelled, he’ll find it much easier to handle if he’s writing in the first person because the narrator is also an actor in the scenes. Writing in the third person, however, is problematic. Following the lovers through the bedroom door the narrator intrudes, comes a voyeur, a peeping tom observing the action on the bed and taking notes. I believe it’s better to take the lovers to the bedroom door, have them kiss and embrace and then walk away and leave it all up to the reader.

So do I practice what I preach? Of course. I’ll go so far and no further, mainly out of respect for the reader. Watching a movie is a passive activity. Reading a novel is an active pursuit. The reader’s imagination is involved, and I believe he should be encouraged to use it and that way he enjoys the reading experience more. If the writer does it for him by describing a love scene in detail, the reader may not like the way it unfolds. By letting the reader imagine the scene as he or she wants it is a far smarter move.

Here’s my take on it. In a time of total license, with no restraining hand, a writer becomes his own censor. He has to judge how far to go. Provided it’s not gratuitous, a well written, appropriate love scene can enhance a story. An inappropriate, highly descriptive, one will do the opposite. But why take chances? If it isn’t essential to the story line, a writer should err on the side of caution and skip it. The last thing a writer wants is to make a fool of himself and become a contender for the Bad Sex Award.

Once a year, the British magazine, Literary Review hands out its annual Bad Sex in Fiction Award. And some of the prose that earns this dubious honor is hilarious. Ben Okri was the 2014 winner. Okri won the Booker Prize in 1991 and has received, among other prizes, the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize, the Aga Khan Prize for Fiction; awards I’m sure he’s proud of. But he didn’t have the guts to take his medicine and attend the Literary Review ceremony and accept his Bad Sex award. Instead, the insufferable diva issued a short and less than ecstatic statement: “A writer writes what they write, and that’s all there is to it.” But here for your edification and enjoyment is his winning piece:

 

“When his hand brushed her nipple, it tripped a switch and she came alight. He touched her belly, and his hand seemed to burn through her. He lavished on her body indirect touches, and bitter-sweet sensations flooded her brain. She became aware of places in her that could only have been concealed there by a god with a sense of humour.

“Adrift on warm currents, no longer of this world, she became aware of him gliding into her. He loved her with gentleness and strength, stroking her neck, praising her face with his hands, till she was broken up and began a low rhythmic wail … The universe was in her and with each movement it unfolded to her. Somewhere in the night a stray rocket went off.”

 

Isn’t that something? It took some effort to create that hilarious nonsense. I’m just glad I didn’t write it.

No less a writer than Norman Mailer earned his Bad Sex Award in 2007 for a silly sex scene in his novel: The Castle in the Forest. And John Updike, poor chap, was awarded a Bad Sex Lifetime Achievement Award in 2008. It is without a doubt the most dreaded and undesirable award in English literature and any writer worth his salt should avoid it like a poisoned chalice.

Tony McManus was born in Manchester, England. He worked in many jobs to serve his passion for travel such as English teacher, bar tender, taxi driver, and in southern Africa, construction work in the Transvaal goldmines and the copper mines of Zambia. Tony pursues and advocates good health, via diet and exercise. An outdoorsman, sailor, kayaker and canoeist, he also loves hiking, cross country skiing and snowshoeing.

He is the author of an espionage novel: The Iran Deception based on his time in Israel. He recently published: Down And Out In The Big Mango, a collection of short stories set in Thailand. He resides alternately in Chiang Mai, Thailand and Ste. Adele, Quebec, Canada.

He can be found at: http://downeastern.wix.com/tonymcmanuswriter

Or via his email: downeastern@hotmail.com

Tony is the author of a novel: The Iran Deception. http://amzn.to/1Ppb45P

And a short story compilation: Down and Out in the Big Mango. http://amzn.to/1FetYVl

He has published several short stories:

Ray: http://amzn.to/1Ge6jq9

A Bangkok Solution: http://amzn.to/1A8LCuy

A Partner in Crime: http://amzn.to/1ENZpn2

The Bangkok SAS: http://amzn.to/1d5cVMb

He is presently working on two crime novels: A Bangkok Interlude, the first book in a series featuring sleuth Mike Villiers.

And The Company of Men, the first book in a series featuring ex SAS hero, James Fallon.

He expects both novels to see publication before the year’s end.

…thanks, that man, Tony,…I bet all yeez enjoyed that post as much as I did, Lads and Lassies of Blog Land… see yeez later… LUV YEEZ!

ALL MY BLOG POSTS ARE FREE TO SHARE OR RE-BLOG SHOULD YOU SO WISH—BE MY GUEST!

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…what’s in a WURD?… Author buddy, Tony McManus explains…

…the use and abuse of the English language is part and parcel of the quill-scraper’s lot… this ol’ Jurassic takes great delight in rejoicing in reading how wordsmithing craftsmen and women practice the proper application of nuance and descriptive writing… other occasions will cause us all a collective groan… my Author pal, Tony McManus, puts it succinctly here for yeez :

tony

‘YOU’RE SO AWESOME, DARLING’

I have a list of around thirty words and phrases that are overused, incorrectly used or mercilessly abused and debased. Here’s a few:

Actually

Absolutely

Basically

Honestly

Totally

Amazing

Really

People who use these words repetitively in conversation are demonstrating how dull and ignorant they are. They are not listening to what’s being said, so they react by replying with these reflexive words. These are just a few that rankle. But at the top of this list is that once powerful word: AWESOME.

I say once powerful because now it is used to describe the most mundane of things and events and consequently has been totally devalued, leaving it with little of its potency. I ask you; how can a cup of Starbuck’s Latte be “awesome”? An “awesome” movie? Last night’s pizza was “awesome”? This is nonsense.

Iguazu Falls are definitely awesome.

Hurricane Katrina was awesome.

The Grand Canyon is awesome.

The Himalayan Mountains are awesome

Reinhold Messner’s Himalayan mountaineering climbs were awesome.

Felix Baumgartner’s parachute jump from the edge of space was

awesome.

The Battle of Britain was an awesome battle.

Michelangelo’s sculpture, David is an awesome work of art.

A fine lasagna, no matter how well made and tasty, is NOT awesome.

In 1988 along with seven others, in four canoes, I paddled the length of the South Nahanni River in Canada’s North West Territories. No roads up there, all travel by bush plane, or canoe; fly in, paddle out. Bear country and all the mosquitoes you can handle. It’s a twenty three day paddle downriver from the source to Fort Simpson; three days of it dangerous white water. And it rained for seventeen of those days. We were cold and wet, but ate and slept well at river bank campfires. We did it without a single capsize and arrived at Fort Simpson safe, exhausted, but happy men. After a big party, we said goodbye, shook hands and went our separate ways. We’d met as strangers and parted friends, never to meet again. What we did was a great adventure something we were all proud of. But it wasn’t awesome by any stretch.

I could go on, but I’ve made my point. Awesome has been so devalued and ruined, we can’t seriously use it anymore. We, writers especially, are forced to look for other equivalent words to describe the truly awesome.

I suggest we cease using it. Completely. We should put the word back in its box to rest and allow it to recuperate, rebuild its atrophied muscle and get healthy and strong again for use by future generations; it will take years to get back its credit. But those future generations will thank us. So the next time someone posts a photo of an ice cream cone on Facebook and tells you it was “awesome”, set them straight. And kick a little ass in the process.

 

Tony McManus was born in Manchester, England. He worked in many jobs to serve his passion for travel such as English teacher, bar tender, taxi driver, and in southern Africa, construction work in the Transvaal goldmines and the copper mines of Zambia. Tony pursues and advocates good health, via diet and exercise. An outdoorsman, sailor, kayaker and canoeist, he also loves hiking, cross country skiing and snowshoeing.

He is the author of an espionage novel: The Iran Deception based on his time in Israel. He has just published: Down And Out In The Big Mango, a collection of short stories set in Thailand. His second novel: A Bangkok Interlude is due out by late summer.
He resides alternately in Chiang Mai, Thailand and Ste. Adele, Quebec, Canada.

He can be found at: http://downeastern.wix.com/tonymcmanuswriter

Or via his email: downeastern@hotmail.com

Tony is the author of a novel: The Iran Deception. http://amzn.to/1Ppb45P

And a short story compilation: Down and Out in the Big Mango. http://amzn.to/1FetYVl

He has published several short stories:

Ray: http://amzn.to/1Ge6jq9

A Bangkok Solution: http://amzn.to/1A8LCuy

A Partner in Crime: http://amzn.to/1ENZpn2

The Bangkok SAS: http://amzn.to/1d5cVMb

He is presently working on two crime novels: A Bangkok Interlude, the first book in a series featuring Mike Villiers.

And The Company of Men, the first book in a series featuring James Fallon.

He expects both novels to see publication before the year’s end.

…see yeez later… LUV YEEZ!

ALL MY BLOG POSTS ARE FREE TO SHARE OR RE-BLOG SHOULD YOU SO WISH—BE MY GUEST!

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…great villains?… of course we LUV ‘em… so does my pal, author, Tony McManus…

tony

…meet my scribbler pal, Tony McManus… here’s his brilliant and highly erudite (knowledgeable, Mabel… knowledgeable) take on how we LUV to hate, and then LUV again, the best of criminal characters…

VILLAINY

by Tony McManus 

So, what happened to villains then, those exciting bad guys who featured so prominently in crime and adventure fiction over the years? To my disappointment, most of the thrillers I’ve read recently has been sadly lacking in decent nasties. I wonder why the paucity?

As a reader and writer, the villain of the piece is every bit as significant and essential to the narrative as the protagonist; sometimes more so. After all, it’s the cut, thrust and parry between the hero and the villain that creates the conflict and mayhem that is at the heart of the drama. A hero is a hero, but it’s more often the quality of the villain that transforms a good thriller into a great one.

By way of example, we can do no better than observe the way the great master, Sir Arthur Conan-Doyle, fashioned the many antagonists that challenged Sherlock Holmes. The magisterial Professor Moriarty is, of course, well known. But my personal favorite was the pitiless blackmailer, Charles Augustus Milverton; a more complete villain never existed. Holmes held Moriarty in some respect, but he loathed the slippery Milverton.

I find that some writers take the easy route. They make their villain as evil, vicious and hateful as possible; like the sick, antisocial psychopath I had the great displeasure of meeting in a recent novel set in Bangkok, Thailand. This serial killer kidnaps young girls, does awful things to them in a secret chamber and then kills and burns them. He is, of course, trapped, caught and brought to a form of justice. The writer no doubt assumed it’s easier and far less controversial to make his baddie truly loathsome, possessed of a satanic kind of evil that is easy to hate. But having such a pathetic, repulsive creature without a single redeeming feature as your villain is not, I contend, a good idea.

I have no time for “bad” villains. I have no desire to read stories of pedophiles, mindless psychopathic serial killers, mass murderers and abusers of young women, being hunted down by self-righteous cops and PI’s. Such sad, sick people do exist I know, but a writer who uses them as the foil for his protagonist is on a lee shore in my view.

Villainy should have a purpose. Villains should be at least fascinating; attractive even. Good looks coupled with a bizarre sense of humor can do wonders. And a villain who can win female hearts and minds has special weapons to dispose.

Though his books are not popular nowadays, set as they were at the time of the Cold War, I always enjoyed the villains of Ian Fleming. Fleming revealed a keen awareness of the villain’s importance. He abandoned credibility and tended to create villains a little larger than life. He also gave them slightly cartoonish qualities that made them even more memorable and entertaining.

Beginning with the cold, reptilian Le Chiffre, in Casino Royale, and ending with Francisco Scaramanga in The Man With the Golden Gun, we are entertained by a superb cast of outrageous bad boys. Sir Hugo Drax, the suave missile building card cheat in Moonraker. The mad, Auric Goldfinger, who was so obsessed with the stuff that dreams are made of. The dreadful Dr. No on his island, Crab Key. Emillio Largo, the swaggering nuclear bomb thief in Thunderball. And that splendid black villain, Buonaparte Ignace Gallia: “Mr. Big” in Live and Let Die.

In From Russia With Love, Fleming had Bond contend with three determined enemies bent on his destruction; Red Grant, the psychopath assassin; Kronsteen the SMERSH master planner, and the ghastly Rosa Klebb, who showed us that not all Bond girls are beauties.

And one should not forget Bond’s #1 adversary, Ernst Stavro Blofeld, the SPECTRE chief, who features in three of Bond’s adventures.

Fleming also seems to have taken delight in terminating his villains existence with “extreme prejudice.” Le Chiffre, who, in a towering fit of frustration, is on the point of emasculating Bond when he gets a SMERSH bullet in the brain. Mr. Big was taken down in the Caribbean and eaten alive by a pack of sharks and barracudas. Red Grant, on the losing end of a long knife fight with Bond aboard the Orient Express, bleeds to death on the carriage floor. But the best death was reserved for Dr. No, the tall, skeletal creature with pincers for hands. He was buried alive under tons of guano (bird shit) a well earned death that added greatly to this reader’s pleasure. And Blofeld got his when Bond strangled him in Japan.

Elmore Leonard was my favourite crime and suspense writer. I read all he wrote. First I read his crime fiction set in Detroit and Miami and then I backtracked to read his early work with westerns. I also re-read him often; he’s that good. As readers we enjoy him; as writers we can learn much from him.

Leonard produced a regiment of villains far too numerous to mention. And all of his bad boys, both big and small were credible; many amusingly so. But the villain who stands out for me is Mr. Tanner; the hard-bitten cold fish rancher who featured in the western novel, Valdez is Coming.

I confess I love villains. It’s a love affair that began as a child with Long John Silver, the peg-legged pirate from R.L. Stevenson’s Treasure Island. Rebels, bandits, gangsters, train robbers, scoundrels, conmen and scallywags fascinate me. And not just in fiction. I remember as a boy in Manchester in 1963 waking one morning to hear that the Glasgow – London mail train had been stopped and robbed in what became The Great Train Robbery, and how excited I was.

I confess to admiring John Dillinger, Bonnie and Clyde, Jesse James, Che Guevara, Emiliano Zapata, Pancho Villa and many others. Top of my list was, is and always will be, Salvatore Giuliano, the great Sicilian bandit. And the list continues to grow.

In fiction, I like subtle, complex villains, bad guys I can relate to and even sympathize with. Such a villain was that stylish rogue from my boyhood reading, Raffles.

Raffles is a mannered, articulate, gregarious and charming English gentleman with superb credentials. He’s a well-attired bachelor, a cricketer for England with many friends, memberships to fine clubs and rooms in exclusive Albany. But he has a dark side. Secretly, after nightfall, he’s a cat-burglar and safe cracksman, raiding the homes of the rich and famous for their valuables.

Fellow writer, Seumas Gallacher, recently mentioned Mario Puzo’s Godfather, Don Corleone, as his favourite and most credible villain; an excellent choice as he’s also one of mine. The Godfather was a tour de force. In making a villain his protagonist, Puzo delivered a literary coup, albeit risky. Though an organized criminal, a Mafiosa chieftain to be sure, the Don was no thug. And he meted out the kind of justice we all seek in our hearts, but never seem to find in the “system.” Who can forget the moving drama of the pathetic little undertaker, let down by the police and courts, making his tearful pitch to the Don, seeking justice for his raped and beaten daughter? And the beautiful way the Don handled it; spirit moving to say the least. Don Corleone had credibility in spades.

Another complex villain/hero of mine was Tom Ripley, Patricia Highsmith’s creation. She wrote a series of books featuring Tom, who combined the roles of both protagonist and villain. A villain he certainly was in murdering his friend Dickie Greenleaf and assuming his identity, a killing that kicks off his career, but he comes to regret. But yet, as we follow his criminal exploits, we like him.

A more recent villain I enjoyed was John Dolan’s, Jim Fosse, who features in Dolan’s Time Blood and Karma series of books. Fascinating as a cobra, Fosse is a smooth, urbane, charming conman; a shamelessly self-centered rogue.

I believe there are two main types of villains: the credible and the incredible; I like both, but with a strong preference for the former. There are also other categories; accidental villains and reluctant villains are possible areas worthy of a writer’s consideration.

Some time ago I wrote my first novel: The Iran Deception (http://amzn.to/1L5FpRf) In doing so I fashioned several villains. But my main villain I was determined to make attractive; especially to women. Shai Katsav is in so many ways a reluctant villain, a victim of circumstance. He’s also a handsome, dissipated rogue who given half a chance would charm the pants off a nun.

iran

I want to see more female villains in crime literature. Men tend to be crude and use muscle to get their way. Women use craft, feminine wiles, and sex to manipulate men and overcome obstacles and adversaries. A strong, believable woman, operating in what is a man’s world has always had powerful potential for crime writers; especially if she’s beautiful. Brigid O’Shaugnessay of The Maltese Falcon, Phyllis Diertrichsons of Double Indemnity and Cora Papadakis of The Postman Always Rings Twice immediately spring to mind. But my favourite femme-fatale villain was not from a book, but a film; Matty Tyler in Body Heat played to perfection by the lovely Kathleen Turner. Matty was surely a villain to be reckoned with. We need more like Matty in crime fiction.

There’s one thing I’m sure of. No matter if the work is plot driven or character driven, writers do well who take time and care in their crafting of villains. Ideally, the villain and the hero should complement each other.

As David Lubar put it: The villain: “may be driven by greed, neuroses, or the conviction that his cause is just, but he’s also driven by something, not unlike the things that drive the hero.” A shrewd observation.

For me, villains don’t necessarily do different things. They do things differently.

 

Tony McManus was born in Manchester, England. He worked in many jobs to serve his passion for travel such as English teacher, bar tender, taxi driver, and in southern Africa, construction work in the Transvaal goldmines and the copper mines of Zambia. Tony pursues and advocates good health, via diet and exercise. An outdoorsman, sailor, kayaker and canoeist, he also loves hiking, cross country skiing and snowshoeing.

He is the author of an espionage novel: The Iran Deception based on his time in Israel. He has just published: Down And Out In The Big Mango, a collection of short stories set in Thailand. His second novel: A Bangkok Interlude is due out by late summer.
He resides alternately in Chiang Mai, Thailand and Ste. Adele, Quebec, Canada.

He can be found at: http://downeastern.wix.com/tonymcmanuswriter

Or via his email: downeastern@hotmail.com

Tony is the author of a novel: The Iran Deception. http://amzn.to/1Ppb45P

And a short story compilation: Down and Out in the Big Mango. http://amzn.to/1FetYVl

He has published several short stories:

Ray: http://amzn.to/1Ge6jq9

A Bangkok Solution: http://amzn.to/1A8LCuy

A Partner in Crime: http://amzn.to/1ENZpn2

The Bangkok SAS: http://amzn.to/1d5cVMb

He is presently working on two crime novels: A Bangkok Interlude, the first book in a series featuring Mike Villiers.

And The Company of Men, the first book in a series featuring James Fallon.

He expects both novels to see publication before the year’s end.

…thanks, Tony… terrific Guest Post, that man…

…see yeez later…LUV YEEZ!

ALL MY BLOG POSTS ARE FREE TO SHARE OR RE-BLOG SHOULD YOU SO WISH—BE MY GUEST!

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